Ravens rookies make Week 1 impact despite challenging offseason

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Marlon Humphrey's fifth-year option for 2021 being exercised was always elementary.

Rookies were supposed to be at a major disadvantage in this unusual 2020 season, but you wouldn’t know it watching the Ravens in their Week 1 win over Cleveland.

First-round inside linebacker Patrick Queen starting in the middle of the Baltimore defense was always anticipated, but he was just one of seven 2020 draft picks to make their NFL debut against the Browns. Of those seven, three started and five played at least 20 snaps on either side of the ball. In contrast, the 2019 draft class featured only three players — wide receivers Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin and running back Justice Hill — who were active in Week 1 last year. Queen and second-round running back J.K. Dobbins — who scored two touchdowns on seven carries for 22 yards — garnered the attention on Sunday, but it was another rookie who saw the most snaps of the three. After playing left tackle at Mississippi State last year, third-round pick Tyre Phillips made the start at right guard, beating out veteran D.J. Fluker this summer to replace the retired Marshal Yanda. John Harbaugh labeled it “pretty remarkable” that the 6-foot-5, 330-pound Phillips made his first start at a position he didn’t play in college, and the head coach generally liked what he saw from Phillips’ 56 snaps.

“He has a long way to go. He can improve so much, but I look at that as a real positive,” Harbaugh said. “He’s only going to get better because he’s really smart and he’s really a detail-oriented person. He’s the kind of guy who once he’s experienced it, he corrects it. He’s going to learn from every single snap that he takes out there. He had a few things, but he cleaned them up right away. He’s a heck of an athlete [and] a real strong guy.

“I would say he graded out a plus, for sure, in the game. He had a good game.”

Queen’s debut was encouraging with a team-high eight tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble in 54 snaps despite the LSU product being targeted in pass coverage twice for two receptions totaling 20 yards, according to Pro Football Focus.

“He did a good job with his run-fits. He was downhill. I thought he showed his explosive speed a couple times where he went and made some plays,” Harbaugh said. “But generally speaking, [he was] just very solid in terms of the basics; the run-fits, the angles he took, the zone-drops, the way he related the routes, the patience he showed there. He didn’t panic at all. I felt like that was the best thing about it as a start. He should only improve from here.”

Harbaugh was also pleased with fellow rookie inside linebacker Malik Harrison, who also drew a start in Baltimore’s base defense and played 21 defensive snaps in a rotation that also included veterans L.J. Fort and Chris Board. Harrison, a third-round selection from Ohio State, registered four tackles and deflected a pass intended for Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

Fifth-round defensive tackle Broderick Washington recorded a tackle on 28 snaps in the defensive line rotation while rookie wide receivers Devin Duvernay and James Proche handled the kickoff and punt return duties respectively. Duvernay averaged 32.0 yards on his two kick returns and also caught one pass for 12 yards while Proche returned two punts for 26 yards to shake off a second-quarter gaffe that resulted in a Cleveland punt being downed at the Ravens’ 1-yard line.

The performances left room for growth and roles frequently change this early in the season, but the poise and confidence with which the rookies played was impressive considering the group didn’t have the opportunity to play in any preseason games this summer.

“We’re all in the same place, doing the same thing, and we’re all trying to make a statement,” Queen said. “Anytime our number is called, we’re coming to play and coming to dominate. Everybody that comes in, they’re going to get our all, and that’s all we can ask as a team. As a coaching staff, they just want us to play 100 percent.”

Stanley’s status

Harbaugh had no update on left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who sustained a left ankle injury on the opening drive of the second half and didn’t return.

The 2019 Pro Bowl selection remained on the sideline and walked only with a slight limp, encouraging signs for his Week 2 status against Houston.

“I haven’t been told anything serious,” Harbaugh said. “They’re working on him down in the training room. I’d say Wednesday we’ll have a pretty good idea. But again, I expect him to be out there practicing Wednesday. That’s my expectation at this point.”

Week 1 notes

The Ravens became the first team in NFL history to win three straight season openers by 30 or more points after registering blowout Week 1 wins over Cleveland (38-6 in 2020), Miami (59-10 in 2019), and Buffalo (47-3) in 2018). … Sunday marked the third 99-yard drive in franchise history and the first since one in the 2001 postseason that ended with a 4-yard touchdown pass from Elvis Grbac to Travis Taylor in a wild-card round win at Miami. … Queen (21 years, 1 month) became the second-youngest player ever to start a game for the Ravens as only former Pro Bowl running back Jamal Lewis (21 years, 18 days) was younger as a rookie in 2000.