This offseason there’s a quiet confidence in Ravens fans. A confidence in growth, a confidence in development, and a confidence in new faces.
While it’s great to get excited for the fresh blood – along with other standouts like Lamar Jackson or Mark Andrews – in the process, I feel as if we’ve lost focus on the ‘other guys.’ The ones that have inexplicably fallen off the radar in less than a year, be it due to injury, ineffective play for a stretch, or just being overshadowed by the new folks in town.
These are the forgotten, and it’s time we bring them back into the spotlight.
Many Ravens fans have fallen head over heels for both veteran Mark Ingram, and rookie Justice Hill. While these two players will certainly bring a new look to the Ravens running back room, how can so many so quickly forget about Gus Edwards?
Imagine brushing off a running back coming off a rookie year in which he played 11 games (six starts), and carried the ball 137 times for 718 yards with a pair of touchdowns (and a two-point conversion folks also forget about).
Now check this out: in the final six games, Edwards was the starter and averaged 17.5 carries per game. If you were to expand that over a 16-game regular season at his 5.2 ypc average? Gus would’ve had 1,486 yards.
That would’ve led the entire NFL.
And yet, fans seem to brush off Gus as a one-hit wonder.
I tell ya, it makes no sense!
With the Ravens’ first pick in the 2018 draft… they traded back.
But that’s where they decided to take the first Tight End off the board by nabbing Hayden Hurst out of South Carolina. And justifiably so, as Hurst provided the Ravens with a total package at the position: blocking, route running, and phenomenal hands.
Unfortunately for Hurst, a broken bone in his foot during the preseason led to missed time and a slow process getting back into the lineup, and by then Mark Andrews had really began to shine and steal the TE1 spotlight for which Hurst had showed he was ready during camp.
(Defining ironic: Andrews plays great and fans have high hopes, while Gus plays lights out and ‘meh, he’s just a body’.)
Hayden has come out and explained that the injury nagged him throughout the season and unfortunately stalled his development. Alas, some fans decided it was time to to declare Hurst a bust already and I. Just. Can’t.
Imagine having two damn fine tight ends but refusing to give one a second season to truly develop…
Everybody loves to talk about how the Ravens defense was ravaged in the free agency period as players were steadily picked off, with the biggest name of the bunch being C.J. Mosley. With the Ravens opting not to address the inside linebacker position in the draft, the doom and gloom grew from a whisper to a scream and fans (and some analysts) seem to think the Ravens are going to fall apart at the inside backer position.
Recent developments from minicamp in Baltimore have given some glimmer of hope with Peanut Onwausor looking and sounding ready to take on a leadership role, but hey…
What about Kenny Young?
As a fourth-round rookie in 2018, Young contributed more than a few big plays on the year: he opened his rookie season with a forth-quarter sack of Josh Allen in Week 1 versus the Bills, brought down Baker Mayfield in the backfield during overtime in the Ravens’ first meeting with the Browns (also saved a Tim White punt return fumble in the same game), buried Marcus Mariota in the backfield vs the Titans, and stripped Tevin Coleman of the ball in Atlanta. Throw in 40 solo tackles & 11 combos, it’s fair to say the kid showed promise.
Did Kenny Young blow up year one?
Absolutely not, by any means. But I do believe the flashes were there and the development last year will be a crucial factor in what we’ll see from Young in 2019 as he heads into the season totally masked in obscurity…
We already know the Ravens have their starters at Right Tackle (Orlando Brown Jr), Left Tackle (Ronnie Stanley), and Right Guard (Marshal Yanda) locked in. It’s also assumed by most that Matt Skura has the Center gig on lock, while the Left Guard spot remains in flux between the likes of James Hurst, Jermaine Eluemunor, or Alex Lewis…
And yet, this is where Bradley Bozeman joins the forgotten.
Quite frankly, I’m going to petition for Bozeman at center over Skura, as center was Bozeman’s natural position at Bama, and I don’t believe Skura showed me enough last year to necessarily own the starter gig in 2019 (if PFF is your thing, he was 23rd Center overall, but more importantly for a run-first offense, 28th in run blocking). But even if you believe Skura isn’t budging from his spot, you could easily make the case for Bozeman at left guard as well, as he took the majority of his 246 snaps in 2018 at that position.
But for some reason, nobody gives a damn about Bozeman…
This one is a little different, as Jimmy Smith is the longest-tenured Raven on the defensive side of the ball (seriously) so he’s ‘known’ by that standard, but in the mix of a secondary where the talk surrounds Marlon Humphrey, Earl Thomas and Tony Jefferson, it’s no doubt that Jimmy Smith has too become forgotten.
I totally understand that Jimmy has had issues with suspension and injuries (more the latter) but we all seem to forget that he is only a season removed from his best season per PFF grading (again, if you’re into that sort of thing, he posted a 81.9 which was tied for the seventh best CB overall in 2018) and he’s been the anchor of an ever-changing secondary over the past eight seasons in Baltimore.
Want a fun Jimmy-hype fact? In 2017 & 2018 combined, Smith has a lower Penalties per Game (0.29) than Marlon Humphrey (0.3125) and Brandon Carr (0.3125).
Yet we don’t talk about that…
As for the leadership qualities – he’s been around the franchise since 2011 and has seen change after change in Baltimore, while remaining the steady presence in the secondary. Leadership doesn’t’ have to be in-your-face. Just like Joe Flacco and Ed Reed before him, Jimmy leads by example.
Show up. Do your job. Set a standard.
Just like the rest of The Forgotten.