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Justin Bethel's Addition Helps Bolster the Ravens' Special Teams Unit in a Strong Way

March 17, 2019 - 3:34 pm

By Joe Schiller

On Friday evening the Ravens announced the signing of ST/CB Justin Bethel to a two-year deal.

The contract details haven’t been revealed but the three-time Pro Bowler joins a secondary in Baltimore that also added Earl Thomas earlier in the week.

It won’t get the same attention, but this is an underrated signing.

Bethel’s addition helps bolster a special teams unit now lead by Chris Horton, who took over the role as special teams coach following Jerry Rosburg’s retirement.

Bethel finished with 14 combined tackles in 14 games with the Atlanta Falcons in 2018. He served as an important asset at the gunner position on punt and kickoff coverage. It’s a crucial special teams role that can go unnoticed to the casual viewer.

You probably didn’t realize that second-year undrafted linebacker Chris Board played just 14 defensive snaps last season but led the Ravens with 356 special teams snaps.

The Ravens value special teams. It’s rooted in John Harbaugh, who was a former special teams coach before coming to Baltimore.

Per Football Outsiders, the Ravens ranked 6th in special teams Defensive-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) last season. Since 2012, they’ve ranked in the top six every year:

2018: 6th

2017: 1st

2016: 4th

2015: 1st

2014: 2nd

2013: 3rd

2012: 1st

Bethel played 259 snaps on special teams for the Falcons in 2018. Only Board, Chris Moore, Chuck Clark, and Tyus Bowser played more for the Ravens.

Bethel’s prowess will help replace one of the Ravens’ top special teamers in Albert McClellan.

McClellan was released by the Ravens in October of last season. He later signed with the New England Patriots and finished as Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded special teams player.

As opposing offenses continue to become more explosive, field position is vital. The Ravens ranked 19th in average starting field position allowed (28.31) and containing returners will benefit Wink Martindale’s defensive unit.

Bethel could see some time at cornerback just like Cyrus Jones did. But this move was clearly about special teams and it’s a solid one.