The Ravens drafted nine men and added many more undrafted free agents back in May. When you take a look at the entire rookie class, the man the Ravens will count on the most is third round selection, Terrence Brooks, free safety out of Florida State.
When I say the Ravens will count on Brooks the most out of the rookies, I mean that his success will be a direct reflection in his units performance. More so than any other rookie on the 2014 squad.
We’ll take a look at the rest of the class and you’ll see what I mean.
- C.J. Mosley, MLB – There is more pressure on second year player, Arthur Brown, to force his way into the lion’s share of the snaps alongside Daryl Smith. We thought Brown would be there last year and never quite put it together. Yes, everyone wants to see the first round selection come right in and have success. But if Brown plays well enough to limit Mosley’s snaps as a rookie, it’s not the end of the world.
- Timmy Jernigan, Brent Urban, DT – Both of these men are in a six man competition for one spot as the starter along with Haloti Ngata and Chris Canty. Again, not the end of the world if Brandon Williams or Kapron Lewis-Moore has a great summer and earns that spot over two rookies.
- Crockett Gillmore, TE – As long as Dennis Pitta remains healthy and Owen Daniels makes the team, Gillmore will be a special teamer if not a healthy game day inactive. With Daniels on a one year deal, Gillmore’s real time to shine would be 2015.
- Lorenzo Taliaferro, RB – It’s more imperative that Ray Rice turn things around, and Bernard Pierce do his part in Rice’s absence if/when suspended. Justin Forsett, a Kubiak guy as well is on the roster. His style is like Taliaferro, he’ll be a force on special teams, and Forsett didn’t kick out a taxi cab window. I wasn’t sold on the pick at the time, and that is still my stance. Forsett is my choice to be the 3rd RB when the Ravens are at full strength.
- John Urschel, G – When healthy, Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele might be one of the best guard tandems in the NFL. Urschel will be called upon here and there. Ultimately, he could be Yanda’s replacement if he becomes a cap casualty in 2015, or not resigned in 2016.
- Keith Wenning, QB – The Ravens are in big trouble if Flacco goes down. As long as Flacco keeps doing what he does and doesn’t miss games, Wenning’s impact will be minimal to none.
- Michael Campanaro, WR – I mean, the depth chart is absolutely stacked at the position. The Ravens are likely to keep six WRs on the 53-man roster. Campanaro brings a specialty as a true slot guy, unlike Marlon Brown. But how important is that position when guys like Brown and Pitta can man that spot with the Smith tandem handling the outside? Not to mention Aaron Mellette who Harbaugh has big plans for, and Jacoby Jones who will see a decent amount of snaps as well.
When it comes to Terrence Brooks, he’ll be competing with Darian Stewart for starting free safety at the thinnest position on the depth chart. Looking at the position, now that Matt Elam has made the move to the strong side, Stewart, and now Brooks, you’re looking at special teams fodder filling out the safeties; Jeromy Miles, Omar Brown, Anthony Levine, and Brynden Trawick. Stewart also has experience playing the strong side if Elam were to suffer injury.
Darian Stewart came to the Ravens in what seemed like a favor for new defensive backs coach and assistant head coach, Steve Spagnulo, who coached Stewart in St. Louis. In the run game he missed six tackles while making 13 in 2013. He also allowed nine catches on 20 balls thrown his way last year. 2011 was his best season and it was under Spagnulo where Stewart defensed 11 passes, picked up three sacks and an INT that he returned for a TD. He’s never played a full season as injuries seem to slow him down.
Clearly, it’s imperative that Terrence Brooks makes the transition to the NFL smoothly, and is ready to be a starter come Week 1. Darian Stewart isn’t capable of handling the free safety position on a 16-game basis. We’re not sure if he can even make it through 16 games.
If Terrence Brooks doesn’t run with this opportunity, perhaps the Ravens would go outside the organization to find someone capable of starting to play free safety. Plenty of players on the market and one name that stands out is former Raven, Jim Leonhard. He is capable of playing both strong and free safety. There’s nothing wrong with versatility at the position. He’s available and has also said that 2014 will be his last season, despite being just 31 years of age. For Leonhard, maybe one last go at it with a team that always has the potential to make a run at the Super Bowl would interest him. Maybe a guy who posted a career high four INTs in 2013 would interest the Ravens. Of course there is a reason he is on the market, and 10 missed tackles versus 12 made tackles in the run game could be part of it. Allowing 16 catches in 27 targets with four TDs allowed (a worse ratio than Stewart) is another part.
With many guys still on the market aging, facing legal trouble, just plain not good at football anymore, the market is thin. Thin like the in house candidates for the free safety job which is why Terrence Brooks will be the most important rookie for the Ravens in 2014.
For a complete breakdown on Terrence Brooks, check out the first part of this article.