Ravens: Justin Madubuike named Defensive Player of the Year candidate

Ravens, Justin Madubuike (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Ravens, Justin Madubuike (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

The Baltimore Ravens have one of the oldest and most experienced defensive lines in the NFL. But one young player they might be leaning on in 2021 is Justin Madubuike.

A third-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Madubuike put together a quiet but effective rookie campaign. Many see Madubuike as a potential breakout candidate this season.

But some have taken that “breakout” projection a little further.

NBC Sports’ Peter King recently released his predictions for the 2021 season including standings and awards. And somewhat amazingly, he listed Madubuike as one of three players who could be named Defensive Player of the Year this season.

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Yes, we’re talking about Justin Madubuike. The same player who was on the field for less than 25 percent of defensive snaps as a rookie and isn’t even going to be a Week 1 starter in 2021.

A breakout is one thing, but putting him in the same company as T.J. Watt and Aaron Donald (the other two DPOTY candidates he listed) might be stretching it. Just a little.

The Ravens are hoping for a breakout season from Justin Madubuike

Madubuike will once again be asked to play a rotational role in a veteran-heavy defensive line. In fact, there’s every reason to believe that he could take on a greater role in 2021.

Calais Cambpell returns for his 14th NFL season, eight sacks away from reaching 100 total in his career. Another veteran, Derek Wolfe, will be playing his second season in Baltimore after being on the field for 58 percent of defensive snaps a year ago.

Don’t be surprised to see Madubuike take some reps away from both Campbell and Wolfe, especially the latter.

Still, it seems highly unlikely that he ascends to the ranks of one of the best defensive players in the NFL.

What the Ravens are really hoping for is to see Madubuike prove that he can carry the load of a future starter.

With Campbell and Brandon Williams on expiring contracts (and with an out in Wolfe’s deal after this season), Madubuike will likely be asked to step into a full-time starting role as early as 2022.

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This season will be about proving that he’s capable of handling that role. Let the Defesive Player of the Year talks wait at least another year.