Entering week one expectations are high, for some the bar may be set to low. Here’s three Baltimore Ravens that are set to exceed expectations.
Standing at 6’5 and 285 lbs, Ward is a former second round pick (44th overall) of the Oakland Raiders in 2016. After 13 starts in 2016 and under-producing, he had an injury ridden sophomore year and only played in five games. At that point he got traded to the Dallas Cowboys and got cut as part of their final round of cuts. He then signed with the Indianapolis Colts’ practice squad and got promoted to the active roster 10 days later. A couple of weeks into the season he was placed on the IR for the remainder of the season. One month into the 2019 season he was released from the Colts and signed with the Ravens six days later.
At this point Ward has found his new home. On a defensive line in need of a boost of energy off the bench, the team brought in three players Justin Ellis, Domata Peko Sr., and Ward. Each player played a significant role on the team last season but quite possibly the biggest addition to the rotation was Ward. Consistently playing around half of the game and making an impact on the field if not on the stat sheet.
Ward was able to use his quick get off and long arms to push linemen back and get involved in the pass rush and run defense. Ward was able to use his size to play inside and outside and is able to stand up as an outside linebacker as well. This helps the Ravens be able to run stunts, twists and other pass rushes with Pernell McPhee and Matthew Judon who are both great at rushing inside and outside. This is key for Ward’s projection for this year. With veteran additions Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe to the defensive line and rookie draft picks Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington, Ward will be firmly apart of the rotation. His ability to play stand up and play some outside linebacker will keep his snap count up and allow him to make an impact in sub-packages.
After getting his feet wet last season in Baltimore with six tackles and one sack, expectations for Ward are for him to be a good part of the rotation, but taking a back seat. But, Ward is going to play a huge role this year probably around 40-50% of snaps again. I expect for Ward to get a handful of sacks and be a part of impact plays throughout the season. Although Ward may not be a starter, look for him to be somebody who makes a large addition because of his versatility. He is also only 26 years old and looking for a breakout fifth season.
Ward resigned with the Ravens on a one year deal for this season and will be looking for a payday this season. I expect for him to play like a man on a mission. His story on his journey to the NFL is one of hard work and determination, this season he hopefully will become what was originally expected out of him when he was coming out of college.
Stat prediction: 35 tackles, 4.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, 1 blocked kick