Baltimore’s 47-3 rout of the Buffalo Bills on Sunday allowed a slew of Ravens rookies to earn some valuable snaps in the second half of the game.
Quarterback Lamar Jackson led a touchdown drive, cornerback Anthony Averett impressed in coverage, and tight end Mark Andrews was a regular participant throughout the game. But no Ravens rookie looked quite as impressive as linebacker and fourth-round pick, Kenny Young.
The athletic newcomer from UCLA narrowly lost out on a training camp battle with incumbent Patrick Onwuasor for the starting inside linebacker job opposite C.J. Mosley, but that has not prevented Young from making an impact on defense.
Granted, most of Young’s playing time came in mop-up duty in the fourth quarter, but if the small sample size is suggestive of what Young can contribute to this defense, then defensive coordinator Wink Martindale will need to find more ways to get the rookie on the field.
Let’s dive into Young’s promising debut against Buffalo.
In run defense, Young was instinctive and kept his eyes on the ball carrier on almost every play. Here, he recognizes the runner early in the play and works his way toward him.
Young displays the strength needed to shed a block from a guard, ripping off the blocker and continuing laterally with the runner.
Once Young has disengaged from the block, all that is left is to get to the outside run lane in enough time to seal off the run, which he does with ease.
Possessing the instincts, agility and closing speed to shed a block and close off a run lane outside is a trait the Ravens defense desperately needs, and Young brings that to the table.
Additionally, on Sunday, Young provided run-stopping ability between the tackles.
Here, Young blitzes from the inside.
He begins to make progress toward the running back when the handoff is hardly complete, and the only thing between Young and a quick tackle is an oncoming block from his left.
Young’s speed is too much for the blocking tight end, and he closes in to make the tackle with ease.
His speed in the run game is a welcomed addition to the team, and one that must be utilized more going forward. Additionally, Young’s instinct and quickness were on display even on passing plays.
On this play late in the game, Young holds tight in coverage as he waits for the play to develop.
As quarterback Josh Allen begins to leave the pocket, Young’s patience pays off, allowing him to follow the fellow rookie to the outside.
Young’s closing speed yet again impresses, as he beats Allen to the outside and takes him down in the open field for a sack.
As noted before, most of Young’s key plays came late in the game, when both teams were more concerned with running out the clock than putting points on the board.
But for his first meaningful NFL snaps, Young looked comfortable, instinctive, quick and confident. As he continues to work into the rotation with Onwuasor, it would not be a surprise to see Young supersede his competition before season’s end.
In the meantime, the Ravens should feel confident about what Young can already bring to the table so early in his career.