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Ravens 2023 Rookie Expectations: Defense

What are reasonable expectations for the defensive rookies?

Cincinnati Bengals v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

So far, unlike the offensive side with a first-round wide receiver and a sixth-round lineman competing for a starting spot, the defensive rookies haven’t made much of a buzz. Still, all three rookies will likely get a healthy dose of playing time so taking a look at their possible roles and what fan expectations of these players should be.

Trenton Simpson:

The third-round pick was a shocker and sent waves through the fanbase. Patrick Queen’s reaction to his new linebacker mate certainly didn’t calm things down either. But for now, both Queen and Roquan Smith are on this team. So Simpson is firmly down on the depth chart.

That being said, Simpson is simply too quick and athletic to not use. While he will certainly be a special teamer, he will get some limited defensive snaps as well behind the two backers in front of him. Expect Mike Macdonald to use Simpson as an attacker, given lots of field space to get in the backfield, either to blow up run players or rush the passer. Around 30 tackles between special teams and defensive snaps and around five or six combined tackle-for-losses and sacks is a reasonable expectation.

Tavius Robinson:

Out of all the defensive rookies, Robinson has flashed the most. The fourth-round edge has displayed some powerful hands and winning reps on the second team. While it hasn’t been perfect, he’s been amongst the best of the rookies at camp after Zay Flowers and Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu.

That being said, his ceiling as a rookie is still likely just a situation edge rusher, opposite David Ojabo when Macdonald works Odafe Oweh on the inside. The most you can hope for is a sack or two on the season. Any additional impact plays are just a bonus and shouldn’t be expected.

Kyu Kelly:

Outside of injured Andrew Vorhees, Kelly has been the quietest of the rookies. Most reports have him not standing out and needing work on getting his head around to compete on balls in the air. This is unfortunate with Marlon Humphrey the only true known commodity in the cornerback group. There are plenty of snaps to go around amongst the young and unproven cornerback room with free agent addition Rock Ya-Sin missing practices recently.

For now, it seems Kelly won’t be earning any sort of significant snaps on defense and will have to earn playing time through special teams. Still, despite all this, I think we see Kyu Kelly end up with the ball in his hands one time this season. Whether it's via an interception or causing a turnover on special teams, I don’t know, but I do feel strongly about it.