The Baltimore Ravens ended the 2023 preseason with a second straight loss in a 26-20 defeat at the hands of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday night, despite some impressive contributions from their 2023 rookie class.
On a night when four of the team’s six draft selections dressed for the game, a trio of undrafted free agents shined the brightest. However, it wasn’t the usual suspects such as running back Keaton Mitchell and outside linebacker Malik Hamm, who didn’t even dress for the game.
The only two drafted rookies who did not participate were first-round wide receiver Zay Flowers who showed more than enough in the team’s first two preseason games. Seventh-round offensive guard Andrew Vorhees, who is likely to miss his entire rookie season after tearing his ACL at the 2023 scouting combine, also did not dress.
How did the rookies took the field last night fare in their third real taste of NFL action?
ILB Trenton Simpson
The third-round rookie out of Clemson only played special teams in the first half and a nice play on punt coverage, where he downed a Jordan Stout 55-yarder at the Tampa Bay six-yard line. Simpson didn’t take his first defensive snap until the second half and fared better than he did last week in his preseason debut, as he finished with three total tackles including one solo.
EDGE Tavius Robinson
The fourth-round rookie out of Ole Miss had a relatively quiet and unimpactful outing. He finished with just one assisted tackle and didn’t generate much if any pressure on the opposing quarterbacks.
CB Kyu Kelly
The fifth-round rookie out of Stanford saw first-half action against the Buccaneers’ starting offense and once again had an up-and-down outing. He struggled to cover Tampa Bay’s starting wideouts and was beat for touchdown by Pro Bowler Chris Godwin, where it looked like he was supposed to have safety help over the top.
However, Kelly had a better showing in the second half again. He had an impressive pass breakup where he didn’t give up on the play after it looked like he initially allowed a second touchdown pass to be caught. He finished the game with three total tackles including two solos.
Kyu kelly deserves a spot on a NFL roster. Look at this second swat pic.twitter.com/EAx9nQ1G1X— Justin Ford (@JRFord0) August 27, 2023
OL Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu
The sixth-round rookie out of Oregon had a rough final preseason game. He saw his most extensive action but struggled to consistently hold up in pass protection. He got beat for a sack by veteran defensive end William Gholston and gave up pressure that flushed quarterback Josh Johnson out of the pocket in the first half.
After the game, Head Coach John Harbaugh formally announced that fourth-year pro John Simpson was the winner of the starting left guard competition. He also said, though, that Aumavae-Laulu “will be just fine” and that “will contribute” to the team.
WR Dontay Demus Jr.
The undrafted rookie out of the University of Maryland saved his absolute best for last, as he had arguably the most impressive outing of all Ravens’ rookies against the Buccaneers. Demus Jr. only recorded a pair of receptions but had a game-high 86 receiving yards because they both went for impressive long gains. His first catch for 38 yards and came via a contested grab where he was sandwiched between a pair of defenders.
His second catch was the Ravens’ longest play from scrimmage of the game and helped them flip the field on their final drive. Demus Jr. got behind the defense and actually had to throttle down to haul in a scramble-drill throw from quarterback Anthony Brown, who rolled to his left before heaving up a deep pass attempt.
RB Owen Wright
The undrafted rookie out of Monmouth University also made the most of his final exhibition action by recording 100 total scrimmage yards and scoring his first career touchdown. Wright recorded a game-high 89 rushing yards on 12 carries and added another 11 receiving yards on two receptions. He was an absolute workhorse on the Ravens’ last scoring drive of the game, touching the ball on six of the nine plays including a 38-yard run and a nine-yard reception. That that set up his score from two yards out.
DT Trey Botts
The undrafted rookie out of Colorado State-Pueblo had an impressive second-half performance and made a strong case to at least make the Ravens practice squad. He recorded the team’s only sack of the game, a tackle for loss, and three total tackles including two solos.
CB Jeremy Lucien
The undrafted rookie out of Vanderbilt had a solid outing overall but it could’ve been even better had he not dropped an interception off a deflection in the second half. He finished tied for the second-most total tackles with six, including four solos and broke up a pass as well.
WR Sean Ryan
The undrafted free agent out of Rutgers was targeted once in each half. While he hauled in his second on the team’s final drive of the game for nine receiving yards, Ryan dropped what would’ve been a 21-yard touchdown in the second quarter. He had run a great route to gain separation in the back of the end zone, where Brown delivered a perfect pass but he failed to coral it. According to reports, he had a strong camp overall and could still very well be in contention for a spot on the practice squad.