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5 Players Not Named Lamar Jackson To Take The Next Step

Alex Woodward
June 11, 2019 - 7:40 pm

By Alex Woodward

All eyes are on Lamar Jackson as he heads into his sophomore season after leading the Ravens to their first AFC North title since 2012 last season and their first playoff berth since 2014. What about the rest of the team though? While everyone else focuses on Lamar, lets take a look at 5 players I'm hoping take the next step this season. 


Look, I know the easy answer here would be Hayden Hurst considering he missed 4 games due to a foot injury last year and never looked like the Hayden Hurst before the injury. Any extra production from last years 13 catch 163 yard and 1 TD season would be considered "taking the next step"; so let's look at the other 2nd year TE. Andrews was arguably Lamar's favorite target last season. He consistently found holes in the defense and for a man of his size, he showed an abililty to extend the field with receptions of 74 and 68 yards last season. The Ravens are revamping their offense and have added more speed on the outside and in the backfield. With more threats in the passing and running game, I expect Andrews to find himself the recipient of a lot of footballs this coming season...especially across the middle of the field. His rapport with Lamar is already strong and I think he has the potential to nearly double his reception total of 34 from last season. I also believe he has a chance to lead the team in receiving touchdowns this season. That's what I call taking the next step.


As John Harbaugh has stated, "it's his time". With CJ Mosley leaving for the Jets in free agency this offseason, "Peanut" is expected to take over the defensive play calling and pre-snap communication duties. Onwuasor is a sure tackler who I believe is a better coverage linebacker than Mosley. This "take the next step" selection is more about his role on the defense than production on the field. Onwuasor is now tasked with becoming more of a leader on the Ravens defense just 3 years removed from signing as an undrafted free agent in 2016. Harbaugh raved about Onwuasor getting louder and better at communicating on defense during OTA's. That's a crucial part of the Ravens defensive scheme since they make so many pre-snap adjustments on the fly. Onwuasor's ability to take in information, relay it and then adjust the call if needed will be imperative to the defenses success. He has big shoes to fill but I think with the help of veterans like Earl Thomas and Tony Jefferson behind him, he should be up for the challenge. 


Moore is heading into his 4th season with the Ravens and like Onwuasor, Harbaugh has said this is his time to step up. Moore along with Willie Snead IV are the only returning wide receivers from last season that had receptions. If you look at his career numbers, they're not even impressive for a single season: 44 catches, 490 yards and 4 TD's. I'll chalk that up to being stuck behind retread veteran receivers like Michael Crabtree, Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin. The Ravens youth movement is a good sign for Moore. Yes, Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin were drafted to have an impact on the offense but both are dealing with injuries and you can't discount the rookie factor. Moore knows this system, he has experience catching passes from Lamar and he's one of the few veteran receivers on the team. Will the Ravens throw the ball enough for us to notice an improvement in Moore's game? That remains to be seen but I think he has a chance to blow away his career high 19 receptions in a season this year. Do I think he becomes the Ravens #1 receiver? No, not at all but he steps into a prime position to prove that he deserves more balls thrown his way. It's up to him to capitalize on that opportunity. 


Brent Urban is now with the Tennessee Titans which means Wormley has a chance to make more of an impact on the Ravens defensive line. Urban was great as a run defender last season, ranking as Pro Football Focus' 25th-best run-stopping grade out of 112 qualifiers at defensive tackle. The problem is, that's all he was good at. I believe Wormley has the potential to be much more. First off, look at his stats from last year compared to Urban. He had 9 less tackles, 3 more passes defended, 1 less tackle for loss and a half sack more than Urban in 12% less snaps on defense. You could make the argument that Wormley was the more effective player last year. This year, he has a chance to prove that. I'm not concerned about his ability to stop the run...that's why the Ravens have Michael Pierce and Brandon Williams. Wormley can make his impact through the pass rush this season. Baltimore is desperately in need of help in the pass rush and if they can create that up the middle of the offense with Wormley, that's a powerful weapon at their disposal. Like myself, coach Harbaugh believes Wormley can make an impact in the pass rush this season. Today after their first day of mandatory minicamps, Harbaugh had this to say about Wormley; "Chris is very steady. Very consistent player. Long arms, very very powerful physical inside there. I think his pass rush continues to improve. He's got some smoothness and slipperiness about him as a pass rusher. He's a guy that I would say is a very reliable player and we are relying on him to be that this year."


Speaking of a pass rush lets talk about the edge rush. The Ravens are hoping Matthew Judon can become a consistent force off the edge and they also drafted Jaylon Ferguson this offseason to help that area as well but this is make or break for both Williams and Bowser. Both players are trying to live up to their draft status. They were both drafted in the 2017 draft class. Bowser was a 2nd round pick and Williams was a 3rd round pick. Neither have them have even come close to living up to the expectations from draft day. I hope both are able to take the next step this year given the opportunity but the reality is, it's likely only one of them accomplishes that. Both were drafted to be forces in the pass rush and so far Williams has been more successful (albeit not by much). He logged 2 sacks last season compared to Bowser's 0.5 sacks in 8 less games than Bowser. It wouldn't take much production for either to "take the next step" but if there was ever a time to live up to the draft hype, it's now. 

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