Rookie Report – Week 9
Sunday’s victory over the Steelers was one of the most satisfying results in quite some time. While first round pick Ronnie Stanley struggled mightily, the bulk of the rookies pitched in, including surging performances at two of the most important positions on the field: pass rusher and cornerback.
Tavon Young is a ball player. He is small in stature but shows up big on film, and received a game ball for his efforts against the Steelers. He was not afraid to match up with Antonio Brown when the all-pro receiver lined up on his side, and played effective bracket coverage with the safeties most of the afternoon. Young never shies away from a tackle, and while there are a few technique issues that he will improve upon, he has the tools to be a great piece on this defense.
It’s going to be hard to keep Matt Judon off the game day roster the rest of the season, regardless of what we’ve heard of his special teams inadequacies, because he is proving to be one of the Ravens most promising pass rushers. His sack with 3:20 remaining in the ball game led to a turnover on downs on the next play, and really iced the game since the Ravens had a 14-point lead. He made Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert look foolish with a swim move that would have made Michael Phelps proud.
I also credited Judon with a few hustle plays where he reversed field and chased the ball carrier, that did not result in tackles but on which he showed excellent effort—the kind of plays you can bet his defensive coaches notice.
It’s a surprising and little-known fact that fan favorite Michael Pierce continues to have his snaps cut, registering just 10 on Sunday. But that didn’t stop him from bench-pressing backup center B.J. Finney to reestablish the line of scrimmage and bring down Le’Veon Bell for a solo tackle for a loss of four. Pierce’s surprising impact will definitely factor into the decision this offseason as to whether to keep stud free agent Brandon Williams. Look for Pierce’s workload to increase this season so coaches can see what they really have in him on a play-to-play basis.
Let’s hope that Sunday was Stanley’s worst game of his entire career, because it was brutal. Returning from injury, Stanley was flagged for three holding and one illegal use of hands penalties. The Steelers’ rushers repeatedly burned him, worst of all James Harrison who toasted him in the late third quarter for a strip sack that almost cost Baltimore possession.
But allow me to put on my Aaron Rodgers hat and say this: R-E-L-A-X. It is not an excuse for his performance, but he was coming off an injury and is still a young player, of course. His inconsistent play is definitely frustrating as a fan, but I’ve seen too much quality footwork, hand placement, and high football IQ from Stanley this season to even start to write him off.
Alex Lewis, on the other hand, moved back to his proper position at left guard and put in a solid showing against a talented defensive end in Cameron Heyward. Lewis looked much more comfortable inside, played behind his pads, and only missed a handful of blocks all game long.
Kenneth Dixon’s role was predictably increased, but it was tough sledding all day against a talented Steelers front seven. He finished with nine carries for 13 yards and netted 0 yards on two catches.
Unable to find a significant role at receiver (just four offensive snaps Sunday), Chris Moore scored his second special teams touchdown in as many games, as Buck Allen made the play of the season so far by blocking a fourth quarter punt.
Tomorrow, the Ravens will hope this week’s nationally televised upsets will be limited to the political sphere, when they take on a winless Cleveland squad.