If we were in the business of betting on football games, we’d put a considerable amount of money on the odds of the Baltimore Ravens winning the AFC North this year.
For one thing, Lamar Jackson is coming back, better and stronger than ever. NFL analysts and pundits can talk all day long about Jackson’s contract dilemma, but the quarterback has remained committed to the Ravens and has been actively recruiting players this offseason. When the Ravens come charging out of the gate in 2022, Jackson will be the one leading the pack.
Behind him, a rejuvenated squad of formerly injured players can regain their starting spots, reminding the league why Baltimore is indeed the best team in the AFC North. Last season saw the Ravens miss the playoffs and finish dead last in the division, but it’s nearly impossible to compete at a high level when your roster consists of practice squad substitutes while your opponents have every elite weapon on hand.
Bengals fans (and Eli Apple) are due for a very jolting surprise when they see what this Ravens squad is capable of this year.
While players’ rehabilitation journeys are difficult to predict, and any small snag could derail their ability to perform this upcoming season, we have a strong feeling that these players will fight through the adversity and rise to the upper echelons of the league.
Here are four Ravens players set for a truly historic comeback year in 2022.
4. Daelin Hayes, OLB, Ravens
Daelin Hayes hardly made a dent during his rookie season on the Ravens, but he has the potential to rebound in a huge way in Year 2. Inactive for the first two weeks of the season, the 2021 fifth-round pick out of Notre Dame was placed on injured reserve after suffering an ankle injury in Week 3 against the Detroit Lions.
Hayes only played four defensive snaps that game and ended up missing the rest of the 2021 season. In 2022, Hayes can flourish alongside fellow draftee Odafe Oweh and develop into the starting-caliber pass-rusher that Baltimore desperately needs.
It should be noted that out of the three prospects the Ravens selected in the fifth round of the 2021 draft, Hayes was the only one that made the final 53-man roster heading into the regular season.
He has the speed and quickness, a nifty arsenal of pass-rushing moves, and the ability to drop into coverage that make him one of the team’s most promising young players at arguably the hardest position in football.
In his five seasons with the Fighting Irish, Hayes recorded 97 tackles, 20.5 tackles for a loss, nine sacks, one interception, four passes defended, and four forced fumbles. He’ll likely start on specials teams and gradually get phased into Mike Macdonald’s defensive scheme, but we fully expect Hayes to improve by leaps and bounds — and get a few sacks — in his first full season in the NFL.