For the third year in a row, Lamar Jackson’s season ended in disappointment. Jackson was fortunate enough last weekend to win his first playoff game, but it probably doesn’t feel like much after the way the team went out on Saturday.
Jackson’s Baltimore Ravens lost 17-3 to the Buffalo Bills. Not only were they held to just three points in the windy conditions, but then Jackson suffered a concussion late in the third quarter.
Jackson was feeling well enough after the game where players felt they could talk about the quarterback. Teammate Willie Snead IV thinks the loss will motivate Jackson and serve as a “wakeup call.”
That’s the exact tune we heard after the Ravens went 14-2 in the regular season last season before getting knocked out in the playoffs by the Titans. Jackson spent the offseason working on his game to turn his fortunes. Maybe next season they’ll end up in the conference championship if Jackson progresses round-by-round.
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Willie Snead cost his team a chance to put the Tennessee Titans away in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s AFC Wild Card game.
The Ravens made the decision to go for it facing a 4th and 2 from the Tennessee 23. With a 17-13 lead and 4:28 left, a first down would have kept the drive alive, let the Ravens burn more time, and potentially set themselves up for a touchdown that almost certainly would have put the game to bed.
The Ravens looked to have successfully picked up the first on a short pass to J.K. Dobbins, but Snead was called for offensive pass interference after essentially setting a pick on a defender.
The Ravens had to settle for a 51-yard field goal, which they did convert, but they could have essentially finished off the game there. In the end, they did so after Marcus Peters intercepted Ryan Tannehill on the ensuing drive.
The Baltimore Ravens have revamped their wide receiving corps this offseason, and they are set to make another solid addition if the New Orleans Saints allow it.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the Ravens have signed Willie Snead, a restricted free agent, to a two-year deal worth just over $10 million. The Saints will have five days to match the offer, but it seems unlikely that they will.
Baltimore has moved on from both Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin this offseason, but Snead would be a nice addition after they already signed Michael Crabtree. The 25-year-old caught just eight passes in 11 games with the Saints last season, but he averaged around 70 catches and 940 receiving yards in two seasons before that.
There have been rumblings that the Ravens make sense for a bigger free agent wide receiver prize, but the Snead signing makes that seem less likely.
Every NFL team has a series of superstars on both offense and defense who steal the limelight, but in order for a team to be successful, they need quality starters at every position and strong reserves/role players.
Often, it’s those role players who are ultimately the difference between a championship run or a story about what could have been.
Here’s a look at every NFL team’s key role player.
Arizona Cardinals – John Brown, wide receiver
This spot could have just as easily have gone to wide receiver J.J. Nelson, but John Brown has been an under-the-radar gem for the Cardinals several years running. He finished fourth on the team in all purpose yards (697) in 2016 despite starting only six games, and did his damage through the air, on the ground and returning both kicks and punts. Unfortunately he is currently being limited by a quad injury.
Atlanta Falcons – Adrian Clayborn, defensive end
After starting for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over four seasons, Adrian Clayborn joined the Falcons as a reserve and like many others on defense, plays a key role. A rotational defensive end with quality experience, Clayborn recorded 7.5 sacks with Atlanta over his first two seasons and provides a solid third-and-long option. The 29-year-old has one sack this season, and made his presence felt with a big hit on Aaron Rodgers in Week 2.
NFL superstars tend to receive many rewards, ranging from massive contracts to All-Pro nods and trips to the Pro Bowl. But in order to succeed at the highest level, all 32 teams still need role players and unsung heroes to help them along their journey.
Sometimes those role players receive the recognition they deserve — most often within the fan bases or cities in which they play. But frequently, they are not recognized the way they should be.
Each team has some hidden gems on their roster — here’s a look at one for each team.
Arizona Cardinals – Markus Golden, linebacker
Markus Golden is more overlooked than unknown, but at his current rate of development, he won’t be forgotten much longer. Golden finished the 2016 season with 53 total pressures, 41 run stops and 12.5 sacks. The 41 run stops were good for fourth-most among edge defenders in the NFL. Golden is in line for a Pro Bowl or All-Pro nod in 2017 if he continues at this pace. If that happens, the secret will be out.
Atlanta Falcons – Grady Jarrett, defensive tackle
Grady Jarrett was considered underrated in college and that remained true over his first two seasons with the Falcons. Even despite a strong performance in the Super Bowl, Jarrett hasn’t exactly seen his name in lights. If Atlanta didn’t choke the game away, perhaps that would be different, but for now, Jarrett and his 78.3 Pro Football Focus rating will continue to fly under the radar.