The Baltimore Ravens advanced to the AFC Championship for the first time in over a decade with a commanding 34-10 victory over the Houston Texans at home in the divisional round. They received significant contributions from their first-round pick while other members of his draft class saw most of their action on special teams.
The Ravens had just three of their six 2023 draft selections and none of their undrafted first-year pros dressed. Their first overall selection shined despite limited opportunities in the passing game while their two middle-round picks played just a small handful of defensive snaps.
The only healthy rookie not in uniform was sixth-rounder Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu, who was inactive after dressing as a backup earlier for the regular season finale. Seventh-round offensive guard Andrew Vorhees will miss his entire rookie year and remains on the Non-Football Injury list. Undrafted rookie outside linebacker Malik Hamm reverted to season-ending injured reserve after not being activated to the 53-man roster in late December.
How did the rookies who took the field fare in their latest taste of NFL action?
WR Zay Flowers
The first-round pick out of Boston College didn’t have nearly as heavy of a workload as he did in the first matchup with the Texans in the regular season but ended up as the Ravens leader in targets (five), receptions (four), and receiving yards (41) nonetheless. Three of his catches resulted in first downs and all four came on scoring drives.
Even though he didn’t see a lot of action in terms of passes that came his way, Flowers was still able to display his impressive ability to gain separation and make defenders miss in the open field. His longest reception was for 17 yards and it came early in the second quarter where he separated from Texans top cornerback and former No. 3 overall pick in 2022, Derek Stingley Jr. at the top of his route and caught the ball in stride before going out of bounds.
Man, Zay Flowers was such a great pick for this Ravens Offense. pic.twitter.com/2e1QaLq8Wm— Coach Dan Casey (@CoachDanCasey) January 20, 2024
Two plays before quarterback Lamar Jackson strolled in for his fourth and final touchdown of the game from eight yards out, it was Flowers who helped the offense get into the red zone with an 11-yard reception that took the ball from the Houston 24-yard line to the 13. After initially catching the ball short of the line to gain, he quickly turned upfield and made former Ravens safety DeAndre Houston-Carson eat a face full of grass on a missed tackle attempt. He then proceeded to spin his way to avoid contact on the way to the ground after moving the chains.
Flowers caught all three of his targets and finished with a team-leading, game-high 106 receiving yards. He already broke the record for most receptions ever by a Ravens rookie earlier this season and with 858 receiving yards in 16 games. He’s now the franchise’s new record holder for most receiving yards in a single season for a rookie as well with one more game left to add to it.
.@NFLonCBS Postgame: 1-on-1 with star WR @ZayFlowers— JosinaAnderson (@JosinaAnderson) January 21, 2024
From Day 1 during our off-season slap-hands contest Flowers exuded magnetic energy. His talent is unapologetic but humble.
He's juice-maker on a team with yard-checkers, game-changers & star wattage.
That’s what you need. pic.twitter.com/u43xX01W9U
ILB Trenton Simpson
The third-round rookie out of Clemson almost played exclusively on special teams with 19 snaps even though the Ravens were up by multiple scores early in the fourth quarter but he was on the field for the last three defensive snaps of the game. He had a couple of opportunities on kick and punt return that would’ve prevented a big play for the Texans another that would’ve resulted in a big play for the Ravens but he let them both slip through his grasp. The first was on Houston’s lone touchdown of the game that came as a result of a 67-yard punt return in the first half after he collided with punter Jordan Stout. On the second, he failed to corral a loose ball on the last kick return of the game after fourth-year linebacker Malik Harrison forced a fumble on the returner. Simpson wasn’t credited with any tackles but was in the vicinity of several special teams stops by others.
EDGE Tavius Robinson
The fourth-round rookie out of Ole Miss also predominantly played on special teams with 15 snaps and just three on defense which was the lowest total of his first year in the league. Given that the Texans have one of the worst rushing attacks in the league, there wasn’t as much need for Robinson’s usual rotational role on early downs where he serves as a stout edge-setter. Nevertheless, he was still able to record an assisted tackle in his limited action on defense on the final drive of the game to help Harrison limit a ball carrier to a four-yard gain.