Whenever there’s an injury, NFL coaches pivot to make it a positive. It’s an opportunity for someone else, they say.
In the Ravens’ case, those opportunities have been taken advantage of, and it’s made Baltimore’s already stout defense even stronger down the stretch.
In Sunday’s win over the New York Giants, the Ravens got major contributions from several defensive backups, including cornerback Anthony Averett, linebacker Cheap Chris Board Jersey and rookie defensive tackle Justin Madubuike.
Averett’s contribution was needed the most considering the Ravens were again without starting cornerbacks Cheap Marcus Peters Jersey (calf) and Cheap Jimmy Smith Jersey (ribs/shoulder). Averett played 100 percent of the snaps against the Giants and finished with five tackles and two pass breakups.
Anthony Averett starting to look like he did before his unfortunate collarbone injury.
Good angles and quick feet/reactions to in breaking routes Sunday. Let up a TD but it was a tough rep and Jones had too much time. pic.twitter.com/gWkoG9FHjX
— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) December 29, 2020
“I definitely want to prove myself and my contribution to the team,” Averett said. “The team needed me, and I definitely feel like I stepped up, and I’m going to continue to do that.”
“I’m really just proud of him and the job he’s done,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said immediately after Averett spoke. “You can see what a good person he is, and he’s a very hard worker. It’s good to see him playing so well with his opportunity.”
Averett was a 2018 fourth-round pick out of Alabama, where he was teammates with Marlon Humphrey. But while Humphrey and other Ravens 2018 draft picks such as Cheap Lamar Jackson Jersey, Orlando Brown Jr. and Cheap Mark Andrews Jersey have become stars, Averett has had to wait for his time to shine in the Ravens’ loaded secondary.
He got some defensive playing time last year, including three starts, and was off to a fast start in his limited reps this season until he suffered a slight fracture in his shoulder/collarbone in Philadelphia on Oct. 18. That knocked him out for five games.
“Being out for almost two months, it was definitely tough – just mentally,” Averett said. “But I keep my head in the books. And the team, they needed me to step up and start and play this game. You never know how the chips fall, so I was ready, and I feel like I showed I improved these past two games.”
It remains to be seen whether Peters and/or Smith will return to action for the regular-season finale, but the Ravens know they can rely on Averett against a talented Cheap Cincinnati Bengals Jerseys wide receiver corps if not.
“We trust him, and we put him out there on an island sometimes, and he comes up big for us,” outside linebacker Cheap Matthew Judon Jersey said. “That’s what every level has to do on our defense for us to be a great defense; our D-line has to play well, our linebackers have to communicate, and our defensive backs, they’ve got to cover. And when he’s out there, he’s covering people.”
Judon is right about the Ravens’ defense becoming stronger at every level. At linebacker, the Ravens have been thrilled with the development of first-round rookie Cheap Patrick Queen Jersey, but Chris Board has been another up-and-comer who has become an important part of the mix.
Board registered two sacks against the Giants. He only had a ½ sack previously in his entire career. He played 36 percent of the defensive snaps.
In his third season, Board has become recognized as one of the league’s top special teams players. While he takes pride in that, it’s gratifying for the former undrafted North Dakota State product to contribute on defense too.
“I’m just trying to go out and do whatever I can to help us win. Whatever is asked of me, I just go out and do it to the best of my ability. It feels really good though,” Board said.
“He’s becoming a really good inside linebacker,” Harbaugh said of Board. “Very rarely do you see the guys who excel on special teams the first couple of years and grow into that not become really good defensive players. … He’s making tackles. He’s covering well. I think he’s really making a name for himself.”
The Ravens’ rookie class has been excellent this season, and one of the latest to emerge is Madubuike. The third-round pick from Texas A&M got a late start because of a leg injury suffered in training camp, which sidelined him for the first four games. He missed more action because of COVID-19.
But Madubuike has played the last three weeks, including some important reps with Cheap Calais Campbell Jersey sidelined. He has flashed his quickness, power and relentless motor, and against the Giants, he got his first career sack.
As the Ravens look to keep their veterans on the defensive line fresh, the rookie can be a difference-maker behind them.
“Cheap Justin Madubuike Jersey had another really good game; he keeps getting better every single week,” Harbaugh said.
Lamar Jackson was the NFL’s MVP last year. This year, he’ll have to settle for Ravens MVP, but that will be just fine with him as long as Baltimore continues its run.
The Ravens’ media corps voted Jackson as the team MVP for the second straight season, becoming the first Ravens player to win in back-to-back seasons since running back Ray Rice (2011 and 2012).
As is customary for Jackson, he was thankful, yet modest.
“I appreciate that,” Jackson said. “You know, I always tell you guys I feel like that’s a team award. We’ve been through so much adversity this year and humps and stuff like that. Guys just found a way to pull through and keep fighting, especially for this playoff run.”
It was a challenging start for Jackson coming off last year’s historic season. All eyes were on him, including from opposing defenses.
Jackson had some tough games in the first half of the season, particularly in the team’s first two losses against Kansas City and Pittsburgh. After a home defeat to the Steelers in which he turned the ball over four times, including his first career pick-six, Jackson put the loss on his shoulders.
The Ravens went on a three-game losing skid and Jackson caught COVID-19. He had a tough bout with the virus, which kept him sidelined for the third of those defeats in Pittsburgh – a loss that knocked the Ravens out of contention for the AFC North crown.
But since returning, Jackson has also returned to his MVP form from a year ago. Over the past four weeks, he’s thrown for eight touchdowns to two interceptions, run for four touchdowns and posted 80 or more rushing yards in three of the four games.
No performance was more inspiring than his Monday Night Football win over the Cheap Cleveland Browns Jerseys, when Jackson came back from cramps just in time to throw a fourth-and-5 touchdown pass and put the Ravens in position for Tucker’s 55-yard game-winner.
Head Coach John Harbaugh said he’s “very proud” of the resiliency Jackson has shown this season.
“He’s a guy that can look tough situations squarely in the eye and try to figure out a way to overcome them,” Harbaugh said. “He never gets too down about anything. He’s always upbeat and always works hard.”
In his third season, Jackson has a chance to lead the Ravens to the playoffs for the third straight year as their starter – an accomplishment not many quarterbacks have pulled off.
He took over midway through his rookie season in 2018 and galvanized the team down the stretch, winning six of the final seven regular-season games. He was the driving force in the team’s franchise-best 14-2 season last year. And now he has been the catalyst in Baltimore’s turnaround from a 6-5 record to their current win-and-get-in Week 17 scenario.
Jackson replaced another Ravens quarterback who enjoyed immediate NFL success. Joe Flacco and the Ravens went to the playoffs each of his first five seasons, winning a Super Bowl in his fifth year in 2012. The Ravens are hoping they can climb that mountain two years sooner with Jackson.
“Lamar is a special person. He’s a talented guy, of course,” Harbaugh said. “He’s in the process of proving himself, and making a name for himself, and building a career as a quarterback in the National Football League. … We’re proud to be a part of it and we’ll help in every way we can.”