This is the third part of a series where I’ll list those players who I believe to be most critical for the Ravens this season. Obviously, every Ravens player is important, as football is the ultimate team game. This is a list, though, that looks at players who are on on track for a breakout season, play a position at which the Ravens desperately need help, or are stepping up to take a leadership role.
In this edition of the countdown, we’ll take a look at a crucial rookie, a former defensive MVP, a guy who many aren’t sure really exists, and the only member of the team in the NFL’s Top 100 list.
No. 8: LT Ronnie Stanley
When the No. 6 overall pick comes into camp, works his tail off, and doesn’t allow a single quarterback pressure in 28 pass attempts, you can safely say “Wow.”‘
According to Pro Football Focus (via baltimoreravens.com), Stanley has yet to allow one quarterback pressure this preseason. I’ll admit, I wanted the Ravens to select Laremy Tunsil or Vernon Hargreaves in the draft, and I stand by that. But seeing how Stanley’s been performing so far helps me get over the loss of Kelechi Osemele.
The right side of Baltimore’s offense line has been very strong for the last few years, courtesy of Marshal Yanda and Rick Wagner. The left side hasn’t been bad either, but especially with the loss of Osemele, it needed an upgrade.
Stanley has a long way to go, and will face a tough test from Ezekiel Ansah Saturday night. But, so far so good.
If he continues to play to this well, a Pro Bowl nomination will be in his future.
No. 7: OLB Terrell Suggs
Most players entering their 14th NFL season after tearing an Achilles in the previous year don’t have the kind of job security that Terrell Suggs has. Then again, most players don’t play 14 years to begin with, and most players don’t come back from this kind of injury. Further helping Suggs’ cause is the five-year extension he signed two years ago.
Before taking just a few snaps in the season opener last year, Suggs posted four double-digit sack seasons in the preceding five years (2010-14). In 2014, when he was 32, Suggs posted 12 sacks. That tied his second-best season ever in that category (12 in 2003; 14 in 2011).
One month into this season, Suggs will turn 34. Despite that and his major injury from a year ago, he’s still being counted on for big-time production.
We know he’s going to be a starter, and that he may still have the ability to dominate at an advanced age.
So the question becomes, “What will Suggs’ role be on the 2016 Ravens?”
Don’t be surprised if by season’s end, the “Leader of the Defense” title will transition from Suggs to C.J. Mosley.
No. 6: WR Breshad Perriman
By most accounts Breshad Perriman is a highly-talented young man who is working extremely hard to come back from another knee injury. But somehow, when he’s made progress, bad luck has followed.
Regardless of his 1st-round-pick-status, Perriman needs to not only get on the field this year, but be an impact player. Baltimore simply cannot wait any longer.
Steve Smith, Sr., Kamar Aiken, Mike Wallace, and Ben Watson are very good targets to have in the passing game. But if Perriman is to fulfill his lofty potential, he needs to be active and effective, now.
According to Jeff Zrebiec, earlier this week, “Perriman … moved around pretty well in his first full-team practice since training camp started.”
I really hope his injuries are behind him. If so, he could make the Ravens offense truly dynamic.
No. 5: OL Marshal Yanda
In the last five years, Marshal Yanda has started in 78 of a possible 80 regular season games, made the Pro Bowl every year, and has been named a First-Team All-Pro in each of the last two years.
Though he’s entering his 10th season and works as hard as anyone, Yanda is very much at the top of his game.
Despite an exorbitant amount of injuries to the team in 2015, Yanda was able to start every game and help Baltimore finish the season giving up the 3rd-lowest amount of sacks in the league (24).
The Ravens made a concerted effort to amplify their passing game via free agency and have developed solid running back depth. Yet, the play of their offensive line should determine their level of offensive success. Yanda is, by far, Baltimore’s best offensive lineman since Jonathan Ogden, and will be called upon to set a very high standard once again this year.
Some might say he’s Baltimore’s best player, period.
Early Friday morning, Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus published his list of the best player on each team over the last decade. Yanda was his choice for Baltimore:
“Right now, Marshal Yanda is the best guard in football, and he could well have been one of the best right tackles in the game had the Ravens kept him there, rather than moving him inside. He made the PFF All-Decade team, and including the postseason, has played 9,188 snaps for the Ravens since entering the league in 2007.”
Embrace the grind, indeed.