The Baltimore Ravens‘ bye week came at the perfect time for both their banged-up roster and some midseason recognition since nine weeks in is halfway through the expanded 17-game regular season that spans 18 weeks.
Here are some of the team’s front runners for some notable designations and awards after nine games:
Most Valuable Player: Lamar Jackson
The Ravens’ star signal caller may not be the front-runner to win league MVP for the second time in his career that he was during his extremely hot start to the season but he has still been the most instrumental key to the team’s success nine weeks into the season. He ranks fourth in the league in both total touchdowns with 18 and passing touchdowns with 16, his 635 rushing yards lead the Ravens by nearly 300 more than the next closest in Kenyan Drake who has 344. Jackson’s impact, however, can’t be measured by stats alone because of his ability to make clutch plays when the team needs them the most. He can lead game-winning drives when they are behind which isn’t often or go on put-away drives when they’re ahead which is far more frequent with his playmaking ability, making his value to the team almost incalculable.
Defensive Player Of The Year: Marlon Humphrey
Even though he doesn’t lead the league in interceptions and has yet to dislodge a ball from a ball carrier or pass catcher with one of his famous fruit punch forced fumbles, the two-time Pro Bowler is quietly having one of the best seasons of his career. Humphrey is playing at a First Team All-Pro level with the way he has been lights out and lockdown in coverage and has yet to give up a single touchdown. The six-year veteran is back to splitting his time between the slot and perimeter and has recorded two interceptions, five pass breakups, one fumble recovery, a sack, and two quarterback hits.
Non-QB Offensive Player Of The Year: Devin Duvernay
Coming into this season, all eyes and lofty expectations for the Ravens’ much-maligned wide receiver depth chart were fixated on second-year pro Rashod Bateman. While the 2021 first-round pick got off to a blazing start, a foot injury limited him after four games, and ultimately ended his season.
All the while, the third-year pro emerged as one of the most consistent and dangerous all-purpose weapons in the league after earning All-Pro honors and his first career Pro Bowl bid as a returner last year. Duvernay leads the Ravens receiver in targets (33), receptions (25), receiving yards (318), and receiving touchdowns (three). He has also carried the ball seven times for 55 rushing yards and a score and has the only kick return touchdown in the league this year.
Comeback Player Of The Year: Ronnie Stanley
When the former top 10 selection turned All-Pro blindside protector got carted off the field in Week 8 of the 2020 season during a home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers just days after inking a market-setting contract extension, no one knew that he’d only play one game over the next 706 days. Stanley would undergo multiple surgeries to repair his ankle, suffered several setbacks, and at one point many doubted whether he’d ever be able to play again let alone at an elite level. Since making his triumphant in Week 5 earlier this year, he has looked like his old self with the way he has established himself as one of the best offensive tackles in the league. According to Pro Football Focus, he ranks first among qualifying players with a pass-blocking grade of 92 and in pressure rate allowed with 1.7 % and has yet to allow a sack.
Breakout Star: Justin Madubuike
While inside linebacker Patrick Queen was in serious contention for this award given his dominant play over the last month and a half, his fellow third-year pro has been consistently disruptive and dominant throughout the season thus far. The 2020 third-rounder has already recorded more sacks this year than he did in his first two seasons combined with 3.5 is tied for the second most on the team. Madubuike is well-deserving of the nickname MADUBEAST with the way he can affect and sometimes even completely wreck opposing offense’s gameplans both as a run defender and pass rusher. He is on pace to set if not double previous career highs with 23 total tackles including six for a loss, six quarterback hits, and three batted passes at the line of scrimmage.
Biggest Surprise: Justin Houston
The popular projection for who would lead the Ravens in sacks this year and be on pace to become the team’s first player to record double digits in a single season in that statistical category was second-year pro Odafe Oweh. Houston took him under his wing as a rookie and the 2021 first-rounder even generated some dark horse Defensive Player of the Year buzz at one point during training camp.
However, at 33 years old when most players his age are well past their prime and in decline, the four-time Pro Bowler is having one of his best seasons in his 14th year in the league. His 8.5 sacks through nine weeks where he missed three games due to a groin injury don’t just lead the Ravens but it also is the second-highest total in the entire NFL behind former Ravens and current New England Patriot Matt Judon who has 11.5 in nine games. After becoming the first player in franchise history to record multiple sacks in three straight games with a 2.5 sack performance against the New Orleans Saints in Week 9 that he capped off with an interception, Houston was aptly named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week.
Unsung Hero: Morgan Moses
The nine-year veteran has been a stabilizing presence at the starting right tackle spot where the Ravens had a bit of a revolving door the previous two seasons while Stanley was dealing with his injury that forced Orlando Brown Jr to play on the left side before he got traded during the 2021 offseason. Moses is also arguably the best bargain addition that General Manager Eric DeCosta made this offseason outside of maybe getting Houston back after using the transition tag on him to retain his talents. He has been one of the team’s top five highest-graded overall players by Pro Football Focus three times in their last five games including in Week 9 against the Saints where he finished as the highest-graded Raven with a season-high overall of 93.
Offensive Rookie Of The Year: Tyler Linderbaum
As exciting as fourth-round tight end Isaiah Likely has been in the team’s last two games filling in for injured First Team All-Pro Mark Andrews, the Ravens’ second first-round pick has been their top rookie on the offensive side of the ball and overall. He has been a day-one starter and over the last two months, has been an absolute dominator and especially in the run game where the offense has produced eight straight games of 155 or more yards heading into their bye. Linderbaum has been a key cog in their rushing success with his ability to more than hold his own in the trenches and climb to the second level and make highlight blocks 10 to 15 yards down the field. According to ESPN, his run block win rate of 76 % ranks first among rookie centers and third among all players at the position.
Defensive Rookie Of The Year: Kyle Hamilton
After a rocky start to his inaugural season in the league the Ravens’ first of their two first-round picks in this year’s draft has really come on strong as of late and is carving out a prominent and consistent role for himself in the defense. Hamilton went from being a liability to a lethal weapon in coverage that lines up all over and covers a lot of ground. He has recorded 25 total tackles including one for a loss and 17 solos, two quarterback hits, two pass deflections, a forced fumble, and a sack, and was robbed of his first career interception in Week 9 in the team’s win over the Saints.
Biggest Disappointment: Ben Cleveland
The second-year was viewed as the favorite to win the starting left guard job but hasn’t been able to stay healthy or beat out fourth-year pro Ben Powers who many believed was on the roster bubble and in jeopardy of getting cut or traded. According to Pro Football Reference, the 2021 third-rounder was active for the first four games of the season and saw just 20 total combined snaps, all on special teams. Powers, on the other hand, has started every game and played 100 percent of the team’s total offensive snaps per PFR and has performed above expectations.