The last second Hail Mary, tipped by James Ihedigbo, to fall into the hands of A.J. Green and send the game into overtime, could’ve been a crushing blow to the Ravens Safety. Jimmy Smith screaming at him on the sideline could’ve forced him to lose all his confidence in himself and his teammates. Yet Ihedigbo finished the game just as strong as he started, making the key tackle on 4th down, for a turnover on downs in overtime.
James Ihedigbo is in his first year starting for the Ravens (he started for the Jets and Patriots in the past), and is finally coming into his own. This season has been somewhat of a revelation for the journeyman safety; performing admirably in replacement of departed Bernard Pollard.
The transition has been seamless; with his on field performance very comparable to Pollard’s in 2012’s Super Bowl run. Ihedigbo now has 55 total tackles, 2 Interceptions, 7 passes defended and a forced fumble; numbers eerily similar to Pollard’s in Tennessee for the season. Add in the fact that Ihedigbo has not been a vocal headache for the organization, coaching staff and players, and Ozzie proved again why he is the “Wizard” of talent evaluation.
He also had the task of filling in for a former Pro-Bowler, while tutoring (and playing alongside) a rookie, in Matt Elam. All that instead of playing with future Hall of Famer by his side (you know that guy Ed Reed), like Pollard was privileged with for his stint with the Ravens.
The Baltimore Safety may have officially turned the corner; after his great game against the Bengals (except for that one play and all), with two interceptions and key tackles throughout the game, especially the last one for the Ravens defense, on 4th and 2 in overtime. Performances like that, from unsung players, will keep the the defense amongst the league’s best. With great pass-rushers up front, taking up a lot of opposing offenses attention, Ihedigbo should have the time to continue to make difference-making plays.
Can he continue to improve after he is about to turn 30? Maybe. Can he be that defensive leader that fans have been clamoring for? Possibly. Can he be a playmaker in the defensive backfield? Absolutely. With the skill set to make plays in the backfield and in pass coverage, Ihedigbo has proven to be a well-rounded safety. With more games like the one against the Bengals, he will prove to be a star…at least for a couple years.