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Ravens rookie report: WR Rashod Bateman, OLB Odafe Oweh show star potential, but injuries have hurt class

What’s life like for an NFL rookie? Just ask Ravens wide receiver Rashod Bateman, who wasn’t quite sure whether the first bye week of his professional career would feel all that different from the weeks that preceded it.

“I don’t know what my schedule is like here every day. I just show up and go to work,” he said with a grin Monday. “The days kind of run together now, so I’m just getting used to coming to work every day and just looking forward to it.”

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The Ravens’ rookie class has given the team a lot to look forward to — and also some players to forget. There have been flashes of greatness amid a handful of early-season contributions. There have also been injury setbacks, roster crunches and typical first-year inconsistencies.

As the Ravens regroup ahead of their return to action in Week 9, here’s a look at how the team’s eight-player draft class and lone undrafted rookie are performing, be it in Baltimore or New England.

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Wide receiver Rashod Bateman

The No. 27 overall pick had avoided injuries over his football career until he heard a pop during an Aug. 10 training camp drill. He’d suffered a groin injury and needed surgery, knocking the former Minnesota star out of preseason play. Bateman started the season on injured reserve and didn’t return to practice until Sept. 29.

When he finally made his NFL debut in Week 6, he proved worth the wait, finishing with four catches on six targets for 29 yards against the Los Angeles Chargers. Bateman added three catches on six targets for 80 yards Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. He said Monday that, with his rehabilitation behind him, he feels “comfortable” on the field.

“He definitely has the skill level, but he’s really mature for a young guy,” pass game specialist Keith Williams said Tuesday. “He came in with an understanding and a mindset that he needed to be locked in to reach his potential. He understood that he had a chance to potentially contribute as a rookie; you can tell that that was on his mind. He’s mature beyond his years. His preparation on an everyday basis has showed that, and he’s physically gifted. So the way he stepped in in his first action, and the fact that he played well, that didn’t surprise me.”

Outside linebacker Odafe Oweh

The No. 31 overall pick has already exceeded his 2020 pass-rush production at Penn State, where he finished a shortened junior season without a sack. Over seven games in Baltimore, Oweh has a team-high three sacks and eight quarterback hits, which trails only outside linebacker Justin Houston (nine).

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Oweh has already shown a knack for the big play. In Week 2, he jarred the ball loose from Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and recovered it to help secure a fourth-quarter rally. In Week 4, he knocked Denver Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater out of the game. In Week 5, he ended a potential Indianapolis Colts scoring drive with a strip-sack of quarterback Carson Wentz. According to Pro Football Focus, Oweh has graded out as the NFL’s third-best rookie edge defender, though his impact has been muted in the past two games.

“We saw it as soon as he got here,” defensive tackle Brandon Williams said of Oweh’s game-changing potential earlier this month. “I mean, he was just flying around. The dude runs a 4.3[-second 40-yard dash], as big as he is. He’s just a monster to be messed with, so him making all these plays, it’s just really what we expect of him, and we only expect him to get better.”

Guard Ben Cleveland

The third-round pick has had a fitful start to his Ravens career. A concussion slowed the mammoth Georgia product’s progress at training camp, and he didn’t make his NFL debut until Week 2.

After earning a timeshare at left guard with Ben Powers, Cleveland was carted off the field in Week 5 with a knee injury. He’s expected to return from injured reserve, and he wrote on Twitter in mid-October that he’ll be “back soon and better than ever!” Coaches have praised Cleveland’s power as a blocker but noted his room for improvement technically.

“There’s a big man who can move, can helmet-adjust, can change direction, has speed,” Ravens offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris said Tuesday. “He just needs playing time. Unfortunately, he got hurt in the preseason. We got him back again, and now he got reinjured. But when he’s stepped in, he’s done a nice job, and he’s growing as a pro.”

Defensive back Brandon Stephens

A surprise selection late in the third round, the former UCLA running back finished the preseason as the Ravens’ leading tackler on defense and on special teams. Stephens, who played primarily cornerback at Southern Methodist, has lined up wherever the Ravens have needed him on defense this season, from slot cornerback to deep safety to box safety.

Stephens has appeared in every game this season and started two in place of injured safety DeShon Elliott. He ranks fifth on the team in tackles (29) and has missed just three attempts, according to Pro Football Reference. In coverage, Stephens has been targeted 15 times and allowed 13 completions for 172 yards and two touchdowns, the bulk of which came in his first two games.

“He’s got that same kind of mentality like [safety] Chuck [Clark],” pass game coordinator and secondary coach Chris Hewitt said Tuesday. “He’s really serious, he’s got a great approach about him, [he’s] extremely conscientious. He’s just got to learn the speed of the play in the NFL and continue to just get better at that, and he has.”

Ravens wide receiver Tylan Wallace makes a catch at the sideline during a preseason game against the New Orleans Saints on Aug. 14.
Ravens wide receiver Tylan Wallace makes a catch at the sideline during a preseason game against the New Orleans Saints on Aug. 14. (Karl Merton Ferron/The Baltimore Sun)

Wide receiver Tylan Wallace

The fourth-round pick had a quiet camp but an encouraging preseason, finishing with five catches for 63 yards and a touchdown. Wallace averaged over 1,100 receiving yards during his final three years at Oklahoma State, lining up mostly as an outside receiver, but he might be most effective as an NFL slot receiver.

Wallace, who’s played just nine snaps on offense this season, has made his greatest impact on special teams, ranking fifth on the team in snaps. “You knew he had some of the traits to be a good special teams player,” special teams coordinator Chris Horton said last week. “He can run, and he’s turning out to be a really good player. Again, another guy that’s never played any special teams in his career. After five, six weeks, he’s done a great job for us. I think every week, he’s just going to continue to get better.”

Cornerback Shaun Wade

After the fifth-round pick’s disappointing camp, the Ravens traded him to the Patriots in late August for a 2022 seventh-round pick and 2023 fifth-round pick. Wade, who starred at Ohio State in 2019 before an injury-marred and disappointing 2020, has yet to appear in a game for New England this season. He returned to practice Wednesday after missing three weeks with a concussion.

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“That adjustment [of switching teams], I’m not going to lie, it’s very, very hard,” Wade told Patriots reporters last month. “Just going to Baltimore and learning their defense and how they play, how they practice, and coming here, it’s a totally different atmosphere. They practice different, they lift different here, the coaches are different here, the system is different here. It’s just something that I have to adjust to, and that’s a part of life. You’ve got to adjust in life, and this is just something I’ve got to adjust to to get to where I want in my goals.”

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Ravens outside linebacker Daelin Hayes (59) during team practice on Sept. 2.
Ravens outside linebacker Daelin Hayes (59) during team practice on Sept. 2. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

Outside linebacker Daelin Hayes

The fifth-round pick stood out throughout offseason workouts and well into the preseason, impressing with his motor and bend. But a knee injury sidelined Hayes for the season’s first two weeks, and he played just four snaps against the Lions in his hometown of Detroit before suffering an ankle injury.

Injuries limited Hayes in high school and at Notre Dame, and his recovery timetable is unclear. If he can return to action this season, he’ll likely battle with outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson for a spot on the game-day roster. “Nothing has come easy,” Hayes said in early September. “Just to earn the respect of the vets and earn the respect of the coaches and to be out here and to be a part of this organization is truly a blessing.”

Fullback/tight end Ben Mason

The fifth-round pick’s impressive athleticism rarely flashed in camp, and he finished the preseason without a catch. With Patrick Ricard entrenched as the starting fullback and more established tight ends ahead of the Michigan product on the depth chart, the Ravens released Mason during their final roster cut-down.

Rather than rejoin the team on its practice squad, he signed with New England’s, much to coach John Harbaugh’s dismay. Stuck behind fullback Jakob Johnson on the Patriots’ depth chart, Mason hasn’t been called up for a game yet.

Safety Ar’Darius Washington

The most highly regarded of the Ravens’ undrafted rookies, Washington outplayed Wade in training camp to secure a roster spot. The former Texas Christian star impressed with his coverage ability in the slot and instincts as a safety, but his size (5 feet 8, 176 pounds) remains a limitation.

Washington has appeared in two games this season, seeing two defensive snaps and 12 special teams snaps total and combining with safety Jordan Richards for a kickoff return tackle in Week 5. In August, defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale said Washington was starting to “understand the system better and how to disguise and how to do different things.”

Week 9

VIKINGS@RAVENS

Nov. 7, 1 p.m.

TV: Chs. 45, 5 Radio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM

Line: Ravens by 6

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