“Regardless of being more than three years removed from when he was the Steelers’ bell cow back and often dominated defenses, Bell will always bring about a certain excitement because of what was,” NFL.com’s Grant Gordon wrote.
More importantly, it makes the Ravens-Steelers matchups all the more interesting, Behind the Steel Curtain’s Jeff Hartman said.
“Steelers fans might feel as if Bell is old news, but there will be a renewed sense of hatred towards the former Michigan Spartan since joining Alejandro Villanueva in Baltimore,” Hartman wrote.
Peter King Lists Justin Madubuike As a Defensive Player of the Year Candidate
Sophomore defensive tackle Justin Madubuike has received a lot of attention entering this season. Teammate Derek Wolfe said Madubuike has “the ability to become an All-Pro football player,” and multiple outlets called him a second-year breakout candidate. The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec concurs, saying, “Any short list of potential Ravens’ breakout candidates has the 2020 third-round pick near the top.”
Now, NBC Sports’ Peter King has called his shot above the rest, listing Madubuike as one of his three top candidates for 2021 Defensive Player of the Year, behind Steelers pass rusher T.J. Watt and Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
“This was Watt’s award last year,” King wrote. “This year he leaves no doubt. Watch Madubuike explode this year.”
It’s quite a lofty expectation, putting Madubuike in conversation with Watt and Donald. In fact, it’s a little too ambitious, Ebony Bird’s Justin Fried thinks.
“Don’t be surprised to see Madubuike take some reps away from both [Calais] Campbell and Wolfe, especially the latter,” Fried wrote. “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.”
While the Ravens wouldn’t complain if Madubuike become a game-wrecking defensive tackle, it’s surprising to see him listed above Calais Campbell, who holds multiple All-Pro nominations and is eight sacks from breaking the 100-sack mark. This is who Russell Street Report’s Darin McCann believes will be the Ravens’ best defensive player in 2021.
“Campbell had a nice first season with the Ravens last year, with some dashes of dominance sprinkled in (watch the Eagles game if you want to see three hours of borderline abuse),” McCann wrote. “Sure, Campbell is a year older. And, sure again, the Ravens don’t run a prototypical, four-man rush defense that lets him get upfield nearly every down, but I think we’re going to see a different level of dominance this season for Campbell, with added comfort in the system and hopefully better health across the board. This is more of a hunch, obviously, but I suspect Campbell creates mayhem up front all season.”