An opportunity has presented itself for Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams.
Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh says it’s time for them to seize the moment.
After losing Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith in free agency, the Ravens are looking to replace two players who combined for 15 ½ sacks last season. At the NFL Annual League Meetings in Phoenix, Harbaugh called on outside linebackers Bowser and Williams to pick up the slack. Both will be entering their third seasons, and Harbaugh said their production needs to increase. Bowser had just a half sack last season after getting three sacks as a rookie, while Williams had just two sacks last season and was only active for seven games.
“Those two guys need to step up,” Harbaugh said. “It’s their job to do that. They’re very committed to doing it. I’ve talked to both of them. Both are excited about their opportunities and they have it, and let’s roll.”
It’s possible the Ravens will draft a pass rusher, and they may sign a veteran free agent after the draft. However, the most highly-coveted pass rushers in the draft may be gone by the time the Ravens pick at No. 22. Nick Bosa of Ohio State and Josh Allen of Kentucky are projected to be top five picks. Montez Sweat of Mississippi State, Jaylon Ferguson of Louisiana Tech, and Clelin Ferrell of Clemson could all go in the top 20.
That makes it even more important for Williams and Bowser to blossom. Williams was a third-round pick in 2017, and the Ravens believed his pass-rushing skills would transfer to the NFL after he produced 18 ½ sacks over his final two years at Alabama. Bowser had 12 sacks as a senior at Houston, and was a second-round pick in 2017, the 47th pick overall.
Matt Judon is the leading returning pass rusher with seven sacks, after a career-high eight sacks in 2017. Harbaugh still believes there’s another level to which Judon can ascend. But the load of carrying the pass rush can’t fall totally on Judon’s shoulders. The more support he gets, the better off the Ravens’ defense will be. Baltimore’s secondary is excellent, but even the best secondaries can have breakdowns if the opposing quarterback is given too much time to throw.
“Obviously, to go along with your secondary, you want to have pass pressure,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a passing league. I think it’s two-fold. First of all, we have pass rushers. We have guys that we really like. Matt Judon obviously has proven himself. He’s got to take the next step. He’s very determined to do that. I have high expectations for Matt. I’m a believer in Matt Judon as a player, as a work ethic and all that. I just want to see him go. I believe he will."