The Baltimore Ravens have certainly invested quite a bit in their defense over the course of the past couple of years, to the point at which they are being regarded as one of the best defenses in the league. After using all of their top draft picks, and most of their top free agent signings, on that side of the ball, it should be no surprise.
But there is at least one thing that they have to figure out, and that is who is going to be starting opposite Terrell Suggs at outside linebacker—and also, perhaps, how much Suggs will play, at the age of 34 and showing signs of regression.
The veteran and Elvis Dumervil provided a nice complement to one another for a few years, but injuries ultimately bogged Dumervil down over the past two years, and that resulted in his being released earlier this offseason. They have plenty of bodies to replace him, but it’s unclear if any have dynamic potential.
According to the team’s website, the player who has taken the most snaps with the first-team defense through spring drills was Matt Judon, a second-year former fifth-round draft pick. He recorded four sacks in 14 games last season, logging over 300 defensive snaps.
But he’s certainly not alone. Za’Darius Smith, a fourth-round pick in 2015, only recorded one sack in four starts last season, but he had five and a half sacks in 15 games as a rookie. Veteran Albert McClellan, entering his seventh season, is capable of lining up anywhere.
Then you have the Ravens’ two rookie edge rushers, taken in the second and third rounds, respectively, in the form of Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams. Now, they are probably not going to be looking at Williams as a player to start right away, but his college-level pass-rush productivity may well see him get on the field in select circumstances.
As for Bowser, he certainly could figure to be in the running for starting snaps. He has already garnered positive reports about his progress during the spring so far, and should see more opportunities with the first-team defense in training camp and the preseason.
Still, this is not entirely uncharted territory for the Ravens, who have had no incumbent pass rusher before and turned to a platoon. They even platooned Dumervil while he was here, so we figure to see multiple players line up across from Suggs.
Because of McClellan’s versatility, it is possible that everybody listed above ends up making the roster, but as to who ends up playing the biggest role, that very much remains to be seen, and it is arguably the biggest question the Ravens face on this side of the ball.
The other could be who replaces Timmy Jernigan, whom they traded, but that could easily be Michael Pierce. They also have Bronson Kaufusi returning after spending his rookie year injured, and they drafted Chris Wormley.