After the Ravens began the second half of the season with a home loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, coach John Harbaugh said a combination of good practices and the right opportunities could help some young players into bigger roles by the end of the year.
A week later, without starting quarterback Joe Flacco, he was asked again about whether the team would be playing for the future.
"Everything you do, you have to be thinking about the short term and the long term, so we try to do both," Harbaugh said. "Definitely from a coaching perspective, your focus is most certainly on the short term, and your players and your coaches, and getting ready for the next game. But there is an awareness of the long term, for sure."
Sometimes, the future and present intersect, as they have with rookie running back Buck Allen, who will go forward as the starter after Justin Forsett broke his right arm.
Allen isn't the only young player who the Ravens will be relying upon for the final six weeks of the season, though. Others, like inside linebackers Arthur Brown and Zachary Orr, have seen small jumps in their snap counts.
Some, like wide receiver Jeremy Butler, have earned a much larger role. And for so many more, including safety Terrence Brooks, how they're deployed in the second half of the season could give an indication of how the team feels about them going forward.
With an eye toward the long term, here's a rundown of some of the Ravens' most notable future prospects, and how they might fit for the final six games of the season.
Running back Buck Allen
Allen played all but the first series Sunday against the St. Louis Rams, and finished with 115 all-purpose yards on 27 touches. Harbaugh has been complimentary of his running style so far.
"He's doing a good job — everybody has seen it," Harbaugh said. "You've seen it in games. We've seen it in games and practice. He continues to improve. He has come a long way, because he works so hard at it."
All signs point to Allen being the featured running back going forward, and with Matt Schaub now at quarterback, they might run the ball even more. It's a big opportunity for the rookie fourth-round draft pick.
Guard/center John Urschel
Urschel, a lifelong guard, is getting his first extended action at center in the absence of starter Jeremy Zuttah (pectoral injury). In his first career start there Sunday, Urschel quieted concerns about his shotgun snaps and impressed veteran guard Marshal Yanda.
"I felt like he did a good job, and he'll continue to grow, too," Yanda said. "I think he's going to get better each game, just that experience level that you get week in and week out."
Wide receiver Jeremy Butler
After a year on injured reserve with a shoulder problem and a half-season on the practice squad, Butler — a longtime favorite of the Ravens coaching staff — debuted two weeks ago against Jacksonville and made his first career catch. Then, he had four catches for 45 yards in 42 snaps against the Rams, the third-most of any Ravens receiver. The game experience will help rectify issues like his first-quarter fumble against the Rams, Harbaugh said.
"He has practiced really well the last three or four weeks, and it showed up in the way he played in the game," Harbaugh said.
Said Butler: "It feels great when your hard work pays off. The main thing is just going out having fun, taking it one play at a time. If you put the work in through the week, you've just got to be confident in your preparation. The rest will take care of itself."
Running back Raheem Mostert
After Forsett's injury Sunday, Mostert and Allen were the only two running backs active. Mostert didn't play an offensive snap, instead focusing on his job as the Ravens' lead returner. But Harbaugh said that could change.
Mostert has game-breaking speed and could add a desperately needed element to the Ravens offense, but Harbaugh said he simply hadn't been around long enough to be game-ready when Forsett went down.
"Raheem can do it, and I wouldn't be surprised if he got a lot of reps going forward here in the future," Harbaugh said.
Inside linebackers Arthur Brown and Zachary Orr
Orr, a second-year college free agent, and Brown, a former second-round draft pick, have both seen small upticks in snaps since the bye week. Orr has played defensive snaps in seven straight games, while Brown had two snaps Sunday, a week after playing eight snaps in his first defensive action since 2014.
Both have found roles in the third-down sub defense for now. Brown's athleticism is being used in zone schemes while Orr lives in the backfield. Orr has a sack, two tackles for loss, two quarterback hits and a pass defensed in 48 snaps. Short of an injury to Daryl Smith or C.J. Mosley, though, a few snaps per game might be all they see.
On the margins
Safety Terrence Brooks
Brooks, a third-round pick in last year's draft, hasn't established himself because of injuries the past two years. He's also seemingly on a different page than the coaching staff — he said last week he was practicing well and was just waiting for an opportunity, while defensive coordinator Dean Pees said Brooks wasn't earning much trust in practice.
Brooks' 15-yard penalty for a late hit on special teams Sunday didn't help, and despite his athleticism and nose for the football, he seems to have a long way to go before he gets his chance.
Defensive ends Brent Urban and Kapron Lewis-Moore
The two have long been connected because of their injury histories, and Monday's game will be the first that both could possibly be active. But the Ravens have a solid five-man rotation at their positions, with Lewis-Moore inactive for four straight games.
Once Urban is activated from injured reserve, it might require an injury to someone above them for either to have a big role on the defensive line, no matter how badly the coaches want to see them in game action.
Cornerback Tray Walker
Even with injuries at cornerback, there hasn't been a place for the rookie fourth-round pick. He's seen as more of a developmental player, and is focusing on special teams while understanding his time will soon come.
"Right about now, I would love to be out there on the field with those guys, but I'm just trying to play my role and do what's best to do with the team," Walker said. "Right now, it's special teams. … Other than that, it'd be a blessing."
Running back Terrance West
West, the former Towson star, can become a power back for the Ravens, who haven't really had one in recent memory. He was inactive last week, but with Forsett's injury, he could dress against his former team in Cleveland.
Left tackle James Hurst
Hurst, who last year was the first undrafted rookie to start at left tackle in a playoff game, has already started three games this year and played three more as a substitute for starter Eugene Monroe. His play has been uneven, though better lately, and in whatever snaps he gets going forward, Hurst needs to leave a better impression entering the offseason.
More of the same
Four rookies — tight ends Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle, defensive tackle Carl Davis and outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith — have been in the mix and getting consistent snaps all season. Save for an injury above them, that's unlikely to change, though all four are at the point where they should be able to handle an increased role if it comes to them.