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Ravens Preseason Week 1 Rookie Report: Undrafted class shines bright

Several members from this year’s crop of first-year players that signed after the draft showed out.

NFL: AUG 12 Preseason - Eagles at Ravens Photo by Charles Brock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With their historic streak of exhibition victories on the line against the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday night, the Baltimore Ravens got significant contributions from their 2023 rookie class — both drafted and undrafted.

On a night where only four of the team’s six draft selections suited up, there were several undrafted players that stepped and played vital roles in the Ravens’ decisive 20-19 victory.

The only two rookies that did not participate were third-round linebacker Trenton Simpson, who is dealing with a soft tissue injury, and seventh round offensive guard Andrew Vorhees. Vorhees is likely to miss his entire rookie season after tearing his ACL at the 2023 scouting combine.

Here is how the first-year players that suited up and took the field fared in their first real NFL action.

WR Zay Flowers

NFL: Preseason-Philadelphia Eagles at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The first-round pick out of Boston College didn’t play a lot of snaps nor did he touch the ball more than once. However, his impact on the Ravens’ first scoring drive of the game was profound. He drew a pair of key five-yard penalties that resulted in automatic first downs. Opposing defensive backs were trying to initiate contact in an attempt to slow him down before he got a chance to get into his route.

The most impressive play of his limited action was a nice block he made to help seal the edge on a five-yard gain by running back Justice Hill. Two plays later, Josh Johnson and Devin Duvernay connected for a touchdown.

Flowers’ lone touch of the game resulted in just a one-yard gain, but even that too was impressive. On the team’s opening possession, he went into orbit motion and was thrown the ball in backfield, where he proceeded to make the first defender miss with a swift juke before being tackled for short gain.

EDGE Tavius Robinson

The fourth-round pick out of Ole Miss had a pretty solid NFL debut overall. He displayed some nice pass rush moves but also showed that his edge setting against the run could use some work. Robinson tried an inside pass rush move and lost outside contain, which allowed Eagles quarterback Marcus Mariota to escape the pocket. Mariota picked up seven yards to cross midfield on the Eagles’ second drive of the game.

CB Kyu Blu Kelly

The fifth-round pick out of Stanford didn’t check into the game until the second half but still managed to register a tackle and pass breakup on the only time he was targeted. He was solid in coverage and didn’t suffer the same noticeable lapses as some other corners did several times throughout the game. Hopefully, Kelly can earn more snaps earlier in games over the next two weeks. Then, he can prove himself against select first and second-string opposition, instead of just third and fourth-string players on the edge their respective roster bubbles.

OL Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu

It’s hard to judge offensive line play from watching the broadcast alone. However, the announcers made a point to highlight Aumavae-Laulu whenever he did something good or bad. The sixth-round pick out of Oregon entered the preseason opener in a tight competition with fourth-year pro John Simpson for the starting left guard spot. Overall, he seemed to hold his own in both pass protection as well as run blocking. His only big mistake came on a facemask penalty that negated a 14-yard catch by another player that will appear later in this article.

It’ll be interesting to see the snap distribution between Aumavae-Laulu and Simpson over then next two weeks, and what that means in terms of the competition. He didn’t check in until second drive of the second quarter but played deep into the second half, so that could mean he’ll get the start against the Washington Commanders next week. However, it makes sense to play the rookie more extensively since he getting his first taste of NFL action. Simpson, meanwhile, has 35 games and 21 starts under his belt during his first three years in the league.

RB Keaton Mitchell

NFL: Preseason-Philadelphia Eagles at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The undrafted free agent out of East Carolina University showcased his explosive playmaking ability, which has coaches and fans alike excited about his potential prospects in the NFL.

Even though he finished with just 11 yards on six carries, Mitchell impressed by running hard, making defenders miss, fighting through contact, and displaying great burst and acceleration. His yardage total would’ve been more reflective of a standout performance had his 35-yard touchdown run not gotten called back for a holding call on offensive guard (and fellow undrafted rookie) Jaylon Thomas.

Mitchell also showed some juice on special teams as a kick returner, where he racked 73 yards on his three opportunities — including a long of 29 yards on his first return.

With two-time Pro Bowl returner Devin Duvernay and starting running back J.K. Dobbins both heading into the final year of his rookie contract, Mitchell could factor into the Ravens future plans in more ways than one.

WR Sean Ryan

NFL: AUG 12 Preseason - Eagles at Ravens Photo by Charles Brock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The undrafted free agent out of Rutgers was the second-most impressive wideout that stepped on the field for the Ravens on Saturday. Even though he wasn’t on the receiving end of a touchdown pass like Tylan Wallace or Duvernay, he proved to be a quarterback’s best friend. Ryan showed an ability to consistently get open, find the soft spots in zone coverage, and move the chains. Ryan finished as the team’s leading receiver with 37 receiving yards on four catches and would’ve eclipsed 50 receiving yards had it not been for Aumavae-Laulu’ penalty.

EDGE Malik Hamm

The undrafted free agent out of Lafayette College made his NFL debut for his hometown team. Hamm was arguably the most impressive pass rusher for the Ravens on the night, outside of veteran safety Daryl Worley who led the team with two sacks. Hamm parlayed a perfectly executed spin move into a clutch sack that essentially ended an Eagles drive about midway through the third quarter. He finished with a solo tackle for loss as well.

EDGE Kelle Sanders

NFL: Preseason-Philadelphia Eagles at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The undrafted free agent out of UAB had a pair of impressive plays that helped end Eagles drives and finished with two total tackles.

His first standout play came in the third quarter, when he knifed into the backfield and tackled running back Trey Sermon behind the line of scrimmage for a seven-yard loss. His second came on the ensuing possession after James Proche fumbled a punt return. Hamm forced quarterback Tanner McKee to throw an incompletion on fourth-and-short, which resulted in a turnover on downs.