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Expectation For Pernell McPhee? To Be Premier Outside Linebacker


Pernell McPhee isn't shy about the big expectations he has for himself.

The outside linebacker has shown flashes during his first three years with the Ravens, but now he's committed to putting it all together for a breakout season.

"You could say that I'm in my prime. And this is the time to show it," McPhee said. "I get an opportunity that I'm healthy going into my fourth year, and I think this is the time that I show the world I'm in my prime, and this is what I got drafted for."

Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh expressed a similar sentiment.

"To me, Pernell McPhee can be a premier outside [linebacker] in the National Football League," Harbaugh said. "That's our ambition for him this year, and that's what he expects of himself."

The foundation is set for McPhee to make a leap during his fourth NFL season. He has a strong understanding of the defense, and he's now in his second season playing outside linebacker.

He's also healthy; his health has been a hindrance throughout his career. McPhee has dealt with nagging knee issues, but the knee hasn't sidelined him at all during this year's training camp.

"If the Lord blesses me to stay healthy, then you'll see this season," McPhee said. "I've made great progress. I'm faster, I'm lighter on my feet. I understand that outside linebacker spot way more. Just being in this system four years, knowing every positon in the front seven, and knowing what our secondary does before they do it. It's just little things that a lot of guys don't do in the game of football."

McPhee, 6-foot-3, 280 pounds, has moved around the defense the last few years. He started his career as a defensive end before making the switch to outside linebacker.

Recent season-ending injuries to defensive ends Kapron Lewis-Moore (Achilles) and Brent Urban (knee) could force the Ravens to move pieces around, but Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees indicated that he likes McPhee at outside linebacker.

McPhee indicated that he's versatile enough to play wherever the coaches want.

"I can play everything on the front seven," he said.

However the Ravens end up using him, an area where McPhee has shown untapped potential is as a pass rusher. He racked up six sacks his rookie season and has 9.5 in his career.

McPhee expects to be an important piece of the Ravens defensive front as a pass rusher and run stopper, and his key for a big season is to embrace the aggressive mindset the Ravens want for their defense this year.

"We all just go out there and be dogs. Just let us off the leash and let us go hunt," McPhee said.* *"That's what we do best. We go tackle the ball, it doesn't matter if it's run, pass, whatever."

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