Photo Courtesy: USA Today

Ravens' Midseason Superlatives

November 06, 2018 - 1:12 pm
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By Joe Schiller 

The Baltimore Ravens enter their Week 9 bye with more questions than answered at this point.

Following a 4-2 start, the Ravens have lost three straight games and three of four. They are in danger of missing out on the postseason for the fourth straight year and pressure is beginning to mount surrounding the organization and the job status of head coach John Harbaugh.

There have been ups and downs so far and I’m here to hand out the Ravens’ midseason superlatives. These are based on my opinion throughout the first half of the season.

 

Offensive MVP: John Brown

After a passing game that was nothing short of anemic last season, Ozzie Newsome cleaned house in the offseason and revitalized the receiving core. A group of aging veterans in Mike Wallace, Jeremy Maclin, and Ben Watson were replaced with Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead, and John Brown.

The lowest paid receiver of the trio, Brown, has been the top producing. Brown has totaled 601 yards and four touchdowns through nine games. That’s more than every receiver on last year’s team except for Mike Wallace through 16 games. Brown is averaging a career-high 17.7 yards per catch and has provided a deep threat to the arm of Joe Flacco while playing on a 1-year, $5 million contract.

He caught what would’ve been the game-tying touchdown against the New Orleans Saints in Week 7 and Brown has been a gamble worthwhile for the Ravens this season.

 

Defensive MVP: Marlon Humphrey

He missed two games this season dealing with a hip injury, but Marlon Humphrey’s absence showed how valuable he is to the Ravens’ secondary and defense. The second-year cornerback has quickly developed into a lockdown defender and allowed a passer rating of 83.56 in coverage heading into last Sunday’s matchup against the Steelers, per Pro Football Focus.

Brandon Carr has proved to be a consistent No. 2 option but Jimmy Smith has taken a step since returning from his Achilles injury. Humphrey is the clear top corner in the secondary going forward and in a pass-happy league, it’s crucial to have talent like that.

 

Most disappointing: Tyus Bowser

It’s still too early to declare any draft pick from 2017 a bust but Tyus Bowser is doing himself no favors. Among an outside linebacker group that was expected to bolster premier talent, Bowser has fallen down the depth chart behind Za’Darius Smith and Tim Williams.

Bowser has yet to record a sack in eight games this season and has made blatant special teams mistakes in the process. He was regarded as an athletic freak, one of the best coverage outside linebackers in his draft class, but to this point, Bowser has provided next to nothing for the Ravens.

This group could use production. After totaling 11 sacks in a Week 6 win over the Tennessee Titans, the defense has recorded one in the following three games.

 

Most surprising: Za’Darius Smith

The pass rush theme continues as Za’Darius Smith earns the most surprising honors. He posted a breakout rookie season in 2015 with 5.5 sacks but combined for 4.5 in the following two seasons.

In Paul Kruger fashion, Smith has elevated his play in a contract year. He’s on pace for a career-high total in sacks and earned AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors with a three-sack performance against the Tennessee Titans.

Though to be a potential player on the bubble heading into the season, Smith debunked those thoughts and given the Ravens a tough decision to make heading into the offseason.

Impact Rookie: Kenny Young

Recency bias could argue for Mark Andrews or Orlando Brown Jr., but Kenny Young is my pick. The question mark surrounding C.J. Mosley’s counterpart at linebacker was a burning question throughout the entire offseason and the fifth-round rookie has helped ease those concerns.

Young has made an impact from Week 1. He combined for 18 tackles early in the season when Mosley missed time with a knee injury. Young is quick in the open field and has shown a nose for the football.

I’m very excited to see his progression throughout the second half of the season and moving forward – especially with a decision on C.J. Mosley’s impending free agency.