Baltimore Ravens Rookies Should Not Start Week One


The Baltimore Ravens rookies have earned a lot of praise for their offseason work leading up to the 2015 season and a lot of it is well deserved. Ozzie Newsome owned the draft. He filled their biggest needs in the secondary during via free agency. They did so well that Peter King named the Ravens the No. 1 team in his power rankings. 

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Much of the hype surrounds the Ravens top three draft selections: Breshad Perriman, Maxx Williams and Carl Davis. Each is being counted on to replace key cogs from last year’s team. Perriman is expected to fill the role of Torrey Smith. Davis has the biggest shoes to fill trying to replace Haloti Ngata. Williams is the future at tight end with the uncertainty surrounded Dennis Pitta.

There has been a lot of speculation over the past few days whether the 2015 rookie class will be asked to start this season. It depends who you ask. Jamison Hensley of stated last week that he can see the Ravens rookies making an immediate impact. Matthew Stevens of says the at while the rookies have earned a lot of praise this offseason, the likelihood that they start is little. The reality is both are right, kind of.

Perriman and Williams are going to make an impact this season. They will see playing time. What we do not know is just how much time they see. It all depends on how quickly they can pickup the playbook and translate it onto the field. I agree with Stevens that neither should start the season. However, some do have the opportunity to start later on this season.

Both writers do not believe that Perriman will start to begin the season. However, Hensley thinks it’s only a matter of time before he gets into the starting lineup, while Stevens does not imagine Perriman doing so. Stevens wrote that that Perriman will be “used sparingly and only in certain offensive packages.” Hensley argument is that Perriman is “the only Baltimore wide receiver outside of Steve Smith Sr. who can score a touchdown any time he touches the ball.” That reason alone is why he should break the starting lineup at some point because the same cannot be said for any other receiving threat. You can argue if Smith still has that capability. Perriman is a threat to take it to the house on any play, as was evident on a deep connection between the two in OTAs.

Williams’ battle to get on the field might be the most difficult to gauge. First, there is saga surrounding Pitta. There is no denying that the Ravens would love to get him back in the fold. He has developed tremendous chemistry with Joe Flacco over the years that cannot be dismissed. Flacco knows that Pitta knows all the nuances of the offense and will catch anything thrown his way. Williams also has to contend with second-year player Crocket Gillmore, who has gained the confidence of those around him.

"“Gillmore saw a lot of action during practices and looked the part of a starting tight end. I could see that quarterback Joe Flacco was beginning to grow confidence in Gillmore and create a chemistry that might be difficult for a rookie to unseat,” Stevens wrote."

Davis has the least pressure to make an impact despite the fact some view him as the Ngata’s replacement. There is no rush to replace Ngata because the Ravens already found that guy in Brandon Williams. Timmy Jernigan will be asked to make a bigger contribution in his second year. If Davis shows he has what it takes to get on the field right away, that is fantastic. It is also not necessary. Dean Pees has the luxury of developing Davis into the kind of player he wants rather than having to plug him in right away.

In fact, it might be none of the rookies above that get on the field first. Za’Darius Smith might have the best chance to get on the field right away. He has a lot to learn in terms of coverages, but asking him to line up and rush the passer should get him on the field right away. The Ravens like to rotate their pass rushers and that should get Smith playing time immediately. He is being asked to fill the void by Pernell McPhee‘s departure, and Ozzie Newsome has yet to bring in another option so it is Smith’s job for the taking.

The remaining rookie class has an uphill battle for playing time, let alone becoming starters. Robert Myers has no chance of beating out Marshal Yanda or Kelechi Osemele. Buck Allen is battling for the backup running back job. Nick Boyle’s future with the Ravens depends on Pitta. Tray Walker and Darren Waller are projects.

When the Ravens head to Denver for their Week 1 matchup against the Broncos, it is likely that not a single rookie will start the game. That is good problem to have. You want the rookies to show that they are NFL ready, but if they are being held out, the hope is because the man ahead of them stepped up. No one will complain if Marlon Brown, Gillmore or Jernigan turn into long-term answers. Depth is a good problem to have.

What is important is that these guys develop into long-term solutions as well. The hope is Perriman eventually replaces the aging Smith and Williams becomes the player that has drawn comparisons to Todd Heap. That is what you expect from first and second-round draft picks.

There is no reason to rush any of these rookies. When the time is right, they will leave their mark on this franchise. For better or for worse.

Next: Who Will Backup Justin Forsett?

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