There's no replacing Calais Campbell in Baltimore. First, there aren't many human beings like him on Earth. Second, he's a potential Hall of Fame player and leader.
But with Campbell now in Atlanta, Ravens Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald has the framework of the plan he'll deploy to make up for losing the veteran defensive lineman.
"Obviously, we love Calais," Macdonald said Wednesday as the Ravens continued Football School. "I don't think you look at it like we're trying to replace him. There's things that he does that not a lot of people can do on the field.
"There's things that will get piece-wised that we bring, whether it's interior rush or playing kind of all across the line early downs. We have the guys to do it. We have a great young core D-lineman."
Macdonald called it a "great opportunity" for Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington, two defensive tackles heading into their fourth seasons. Macdonald said it will specifically be an opportunity to "step up their interior pass rush game."
Madubuike tied Campbell for the second-most sacks on the team last year (5.5) and will likely keep keeps ascending. Washington was one of the team's breakout players last season, as he played in 17 games (nine starts) and had 49 tackles and one sack.
Another candidate is mammoth 6-foot-4, 334-pound defensive tackle Travis Jones, who was slowed by a knee injury early in his rookie season, but still played in 15 games (three starts) and made 24 tackles and a sack. Macdonald said Jones is "looking really good out there."
Outside of those three young players, Macdonald also expects to be creative in filling the gap.
"Like you know, we're flexible with personnel groups, so we could sub it out, put in another outside 'backer body," he said. "[We] could put a DB body on the game inside 'backer. So it's flexible at this point."
Odafe Oweh shined when moving inside last year and said Wednesday that he likes it. Ravens fourth-round rookie Tavius Robinson thrived with his hand in the dirt during his final season in Ole Miss. Players such as safety Kyle Hamilton, who is a strong tackler and blitzer, could also be part of the equation.
Will Ravens Use As Many Three Safety Looks?
The Ravens utilized three safeties frequently throughout last season with Marcus Williams and Chuck Clark as the starters, with Kyle Hamilton playing 53% of the defensive snaps, primarily in the slot.
With Clark traded to the New York Jets and Hamilton projected for a starting role, Macdonald may shuffle his personnel groupings this season.
Macdonald said last year's three-safety usage with Hamilton in an atypical role "ended up being just a function of who we felt like gave us the best chance to win."
"Moving forward, that's what this process is all about – figuring out who has earned a job and who earns a right to be out there and play for us," Macdonald said. "How many safeties we have out there, that'll depend on the situation. Could we do three safeties again? Absolutely. You could have more of a nickel body in there this year, I think, depending on who ends up earning that spot."
New OLBs Coach Chuck Smith Drawing Rave Reviews
The Ravens are banking on big steps forward from their young, talented outside linebackers, including Odafe Oweh and David Ojabo.Primarily in charge of unlocking that potential is new Outside Linebackers Coach Chuck Smith.
A former NFL defensive end, Smith comes from an unconventional coaching background with more than 20 years of experience developing and operating a pass-rush training program utilized by professional and college players and coaches. Now in his first positional coaching position in the NFL, Smith is making a good first impression with his players.
"He's a guru," Ojabo said. "He's just bringing [out] the best side of us, and he brings a lot of energy. [He] lets us be ourselves, lets us kind of dance off the ball. And I'm really excited just to see how our development comes."
"Working with Chuck, he's giving us the insight that a lot of guys – me in particular – haven't had," Oweh said. "A lot of my coaches, they're great coaches but they haven't really played the position. He's played the position, he's trained a lot of guys that played the position at a high level. I'm getting little tidbits that I wouldn't necessarily have gotten in past years."
Rock Ya-Sin Is on the Field, 'Looks Great'
Veteran free-agent addition Rock Ya-Sin is participating in Football School activities after signing two weeks ago and looks the part of a starting cornerback.
Ya-Sin missed the final five games of last season with the Las Vegas Raiders due to a knee injury. His health does not appear to be a question as he launches his offseason in Baltimore.
"With Rock, the best compliment I can give is he's physical, and he's such an aggressive player, and just that type of demeanor just fits in great here," Macdonald said. "And he looks great out there moving around. So, we're excited to see what he can do and what he can bring to the table for us."