Ravens: 3 players whose roles will decrease in 2021

Ravens, Miles Boykin Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Ravens, Miles Boykin Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports /
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Ravens, Derek Wolfe
Ravens, Derek Wolfe (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

1. Derek Wolfe, DL, Ravens

Defensive lineman Derek Wolfe must have known someone would eventually succeed his position on the Ravens’ defensive line. He just probably didn’t think it would happen so soon.

Head coach John Harbaugh recently gave an update on Wolfe’s back injury, which could cause him to sit out of Monday’s season opener.

Sure, that’s just one game Wolfe will miss, but before he knows it, it could be two, three, four, and then half the season.

Part of his potentially diminished role has to do with age. The bigger part has to do with young grasshopper Justin Madubuike’s imminent rise to the roster.

Some are already touting Madubuike’s breakout season this year, and still, others are even claiming he could win Defensive Player of the Year (yes, over Aaron Donald).

This all seems preposterous for a 23-year-old who may or may not be the Week 1 starter for Baltimore, but whether you think he’ll be good or great isn’t the question.

All that matters is Madubuike performs better than Wolfe this season, and with Wolfe’s injury, that’s a very real possibility.

Wolfe’s career precedes him, of course, and with nine years of pro experience, 350 career combined tackles, and 34 career sacks, his tenure with the Ravens hasn’t ended yet — he proved that much with a career-high 51 tackles last season.

But Baltimore’s future tackle lies in Madubuike, and slowly but surely, like a small caterpillar nibbling on an old leaf, Madubuike will start to eat into Wolfe’s snaps.

Wolfe started eight games last season, and that number will only decrease if Madubuike continues showing his projected “Defensive Player of the Year” value on the field.

In truth, we know it’s highly unlikely Madubuike actually wins the award, but the acknowledgment itself could gesture toward a changing of the guards in Baltimore.

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Besides, it’s all part of the process of natural evolution in the NFL (trust the process), and Wolfe shouldn’t take it personally.