Mike Preston: To make a deep postseason run, Ravens want important contributions from some younger gamers | COMMENTARY


If the Ravens are to go deep into the postseason in 2022, they are going to want some younger gamers to make main impacts.

Some name it having a “breakout” or “breakthrough” season, nevertheless it’s not value squabbling over phrases. These younger gamers must make important contributions greater than ever earlier than of their temporary NFL careers.

In the case of the Ravens, it’s the large 5 of out of doors linebackers Odafe Oweh and Daelin Hayes, defensive deal with Justin Madubuike, large receiver Rashod Bateman and working again JK Dobbins who must play properly.

Why three defensive gamers in contrast with two on offense?

Defense wins championships.

Plus, that is Baltimore, the town the place protection guidelines. And when you haven’t observed, possibly the largest purpose the Ravens have gained just one playoff recreation previously 4 years is the dearth of a constant cross rush.

Hayes and Oweh must get completely different outcomes. They aren’t going to be main forces just like the Pittsburgh Steelers’ T.J. Watt or Buffalo Bills’ Von Miller, however they can assist change the dynamics of a protection that produced solely 34 sacks final season in a pass-happy league.

Oweh, coming into his second season out of Penn State, had seven sacks as mainly a pace rusher.

Despite having shoulder surgical procedure in January, he has had time to get into the load room and be taught extra about methods despite the fact that he wasn’t absolutely concerned within the staff’s 4 offseason minicamps.

The potential has all the time been there.

“Basically, I’m just extremely raw,” stated the 6-foot-5, 251-pound Oweh, the second of two 2021 first-round picks. “I’m a ‘potential’ guy, basically. So, I’m watching the film from last year and I’m like, ‘Oh, I did crazy good. I did all this stuff.’ And then you watch it now in the offseason, and I’m like, ‘There’s so much stuff you can work on.’ So, there’s a lot to build on. I’m so excited, because even next year — or even this year — it’s going to be a crazy jump. And I’m ready.”

The Ravens will want that kind of carry, and hopefully Hayes, a fifth-round pick of Notre Dame in his second season, can present an identical spark. A 12 months in the past, he was sidelined for a lot of the season with an ankle damage he suffered in Week 3 towards the Detroit Lions.

He’s standing out this offseason together with his constant stress and better energy, particularly within the backside half of his physique. He has caught the eye of coach John Harbaugh.

“The next step will be training camp [and] getting to the quarterback, as much as we allow them to, when the pads come on, and then in the games and all that,” Harbaugh stated. “But [Hayes] has flashed. He knows the defense. He’s very confident out there right now.”

If Oweh and Hayes play properly early, the Ravens gained’t must rush again outdoors linebackers Tyus Bowser and rookie David Ojabo, each recovering from torn Achilles tendons.

Madubuike’s scenario is completely different from these of Oweh and Hayes. This is his third season, one 12 months earlier than gamers realistically must peak in the event that they’re going to remain round lengthy within the NFL.

The former third-round pick of Texas A&M has completed nearly all the things essential to turn into a dominant participant. He has reshaped his physique, slimming down however turning into leaner. He is the Ravens’ most explosive lineman off the snap of the ball.

The pace and quickness make him a double menace as a result of the penetration will enable him to disrupt working performs and likewise trigger issues for sluggish offensive linemen in cross safety.

Madubuike has to enhance beginning defensive deal with Calais Campbell and at instances, take over, as a result of latest historical past reveals that Campbell, 35, will possible miss a number of video games this season attributable to damage. And, the standing and conditioning of nostril guard Michael Pierce is unknown right now.

Madubuike had 36 tackles, together with two sacks final 12 months.

“Everybody knows what Justin is capable of,” Ravens inside linebacker Patrick Queen stated. “He works his tail off every day, all day, all season. We know what’s expected of him, and it’s big things and nothing less from Justin. So, we’re all behind him, know what he can do, so now it’s just time for him to go out there and do it.”

To which Madubuike added: “I’m excited. I’ve been working hard. So, I’m going to keep working, and I believe all the stars will align.”

If the protection, beneath first-year coordinator Mike Macdonald performs properly, then the working recreation is the second part which must be at a excessive degree.

Dobbins, who missed his second season in 2021 with a knee damage, doesn’t must be a star, however simply as efficient as he was in 2020 when he rushed for 805 yards on 134 carries.

In the Ravens’ scheme, the working again is all the time the No. 2 choice to quarterback Lamar Jackson, however the Ravens want a menace, particularly on the surface, to take some stress off Jackson. The Ravens additionally ought to have working again Gus Edwards, who additionally missed 2021 with a knee damage, again on the sphere, however he isn’t a a number of menace like Dobbins.

The final of the large 5 is Bateman. As a rookie and No. 1 draft choose final season, he by no means actually developed a lot chemistry with Jackson due to accidents each suffered all through 2021.

Bateman had 46 catches for 515 yards final season and at instances was a deep menace, however extra of a middle-of-the-field and third-down possession kind. Jackson’s high precedence within the passing offense will likely be tight finish Mark Andrews, however opposing groups will finally double-team him.

When that occurs, nobody has to step up greater than Bateman. It’s the key purpose the Ravens drafted him within the first spherical out of Minnesota.

If he performs properly, that ought to give the Ravens extra stability, not simply on offense, however so far as offense vs. protection. If all these younger gamers carry out properly, it ought to put the Ravens heading in the right direction for a pleasant run within the postseason if all their starters return from final 12 months’s main accidents.

Good protection and a powerful working recreation has been a successful formulation in Baltimore since 2000. It may not get the job completed in 2022, however a breakthrough by these gamers would possibly result in one other breakthrough within the postseason.

Maybe the Ravens gained’t be one and completed, once more.

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