The season’s win-loss record gets even worse for the Ravens and not even mustard-colored pants could help out (what were they thinking?).
Through the losses, the team is still showing some hustle and Jimmy Clausen has stepped up admirably after coming to the team just a few weeks ago.
It hasn’t all been bad either. A few players have shined in this lost season lately as young Ravens audition for bigger role’s on next year’s team.
The first name that comes to mind is Kamar Aiken, who has stepped up in loss of four wide receivers for the Ravens. Aiken showed promise last year after he surpassed Marlon Brown on the depth chart and has progressed even further this season.
The UCF product has shown some big-catch ability throughout the year and has developed the knack of coming back to the football. He’s also been able to out-jump corners for the ball, which has made Clausen and Matt Schaub’s stats look much better.
Aiken’s 802 receiving yards haven proven that Aiken can play a major role in the 2016 season. It’s still blurry whether or not Steve Smith Sr. returns, but Aiken has made it an easier pill to swallow if No. 89 hangs up his cleats.
Aiken will be a restricted free agent next year, but the Ravens won’t let him go anywhere since the team has few options and a bunch of question marks at the position.
Another player that has stepped over the last few weeks in Za’Darius Smith.
Smith, a fourth-round pick out of Kentucky, has four sacks in his limited time on the field. His back-to-back sacks against Pittsburgh played a pivotal role in the Ravens’ win, and his two sacks against Kansas City showed off his bull-rushing skills.
Smith’s emergence could launch him into a starting role next year, with Courtney Upshaw likely leaving in free agency and the uncertain health of Terrell Suggs. It’s another gem Newsome found in the late rounds of the draft, and Smith could follow the long line of top rushers for the Ravens.
One other player that has put together a good stat-line in a few games in Brent Urban, who finally got a chance to play after two injuries set him back almost two years.
Urban’s blocked kick against Cleveland led the Ravens to a win. He also managed to sack Alex Smith on Sunday.
Urban’s 6’7 frame intrigued Baltimore when they drafted him and the small success he’s had over these last four games has made it a feel-good story so far. Chris Canty isn’t getting any younger and Urban may have a shot to take his starting spot next year if he retires.
The younger players are starting to show the coaches that they deserve more playing time next season. They have these next two games to build that argument even further.
With the Ravens’ two biggest division rivals upcoming (vs. Steelers, @ Bengals), how the young Ravens perform won’t go unnoticed.