The Baltimore Ravens have a history of success on special teams. Over their history, they’ve gotten clutch touchdown returns on the biggest stage.
Jermain Lewis’ 84-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the second half of Super Bowl XXXV that put the game out of reach brought the first Lombardi trophy to Baltimore. Years later, in Super Bowl XLVII Jacoby Jones returned the opening kickoff of the second half for a 108-yard touchdown for the longest play in postseason history.
The 2023 Ravens would love to bring home a third Super Bowl win this season. If they are to do so, they’ll need a heavy contribution from the special teams unit. That’s where coordinator Chris Horton comes into play and he’s fired up about some new additions to his unit.
“We’re fired up for each and every guy,” Horton said after Ravens football school last week.
Rookies Zay Flowers and Trenton Simpson are among the new additions that Horton is fired up about. Flowers is an electrifying player that could provide a boost to the return unit. He has the type of playmaking ability that could lead to the next touchdown return that impacts a big game.
“He [Zay Flowers] is dynamic with the ball in his hands. I think a lot of the same things that you saw from him on offense – catching the football, with the ball in his hands, the after-the-catch running – all those abilities translate over to the punt return game,” Horton explained.
The main thing they worked on in football school last week was making sure that Flowers consistently caught and secured the ball during kick and punt returns.
The coverage unit figured to get a boost as well. That will come from Simpson, an athletic rookie linebacker that Horton is very excited about.
“It was pretty easy to love this guy,” Horton said. “You turn on the tape, and you watch him fly around, you watch him get to the football, you watch him make plays. When I had the privilege to evaluate that guy as a special teamer, it was a no-brainer for me; I want that kind of player.”
Horton believes Simpson will have a role because of traits like toughness, speed and physicality. He also likes Simpson’s energy when he’s on the field.
The new additions will blend nicely with a veteran group that has returning players. The Ravens re-signed LB Kristian Welch, LB Del’Shawn Phillips, RB Justice Hill, CB Daryl Worley and others that played roles on special teams.
Added Horton, “It’s a great building block for us – to have those guys around – because they understand the culture, they understand what we’re looking for. And then when we bring those young guys in and incorporate them into that group, it just carries onto what we’re trying to get done.”
The hope springs eternal for every team at this time of the year. Everyone believes they can win a Super Bowl when they kickoff their organized team activities. In the Ravens’ case, the thought is legitimate.
With former special teams coach John Harbaugh as the head coach, there will be a strong emphasis placed on the group. Having Justin Tucker, one of the best kickers in football history certainly tilts the winning balance in Baltimore’s favor.
Horton is pumped up about the opportunity.
“What an exciting time it is for us right now to just be out here,” Horton said. “Get out of the meeting rooms, come outside, move around a little bit with our guys and just really build that foundation.”