Jaylon Ferguson Can Break Another Terrell Suggs Record
With the nickname “Sack Daddy,” there are high expectations for Jaylon Ferguson heading into his rookie season.
Following offseason departures in the pass rush department, the third-round pick enters a unique situation. He’ll have the opportunity to contribute immediately on one of the NFL’s top defenses.
It’s only fitting that Ferguson, who broke Terrell Suggs’ career FBS sack record, will have a chance to break another record owned by the future Hall of Famer.
Suggs amassed 12 sacks during his rookie campaign in 2003 and Ebony Bird’s Richard Bradshaw wouldn’t be surprised to see Ferguson beat it.
“Double-digit sacks could come from day one for the 23-year old,” Bradshaw wrote. “While there shouldn’t be any form of disappointment if he fails to reach that number, don’t be surprised when Ferguson topples another one of Suggs’ sack records in 2019. It would surely be poetic…
“When watching Ferguson’s play for the Bulldogs, you see a determined individual with one thing on his mind: sack the quarterback and hit him as hard as you can. Ferguson played like a Raven long before he was selected by the team, leaving us excited to watch him come out as a rookie and dominate.”
With an unproven and recently injury-hampered mix at outside linebacker aside from Matthew Judon, Bradshaw believes Ferguson could earn significant playing time as the Ravens sort out the depth chart.
“While Ferguson doesn’t have one standout specialty in his pass rushing toolbox, he does possess brute strength and the motor to not take plays off,” Bradshaw wrote. “That kind of play goes a long ways with impressing coaches.”
“Pretty much all of Ferguson’s moves counter off that bull rush,” Pro Football Focus’ Mike Renner said. “The fact that he’s so explosive up the field … he has to make offensive tackles worry about playing through their chest [and] he uses that bull rush to his advantage.”
Baltimore Beatdown’s Frank Platko also set high expectations for Ferguson.
In his “bold predictions” for the linebacker, Platko predicted that Ferguson would finish top five in the Defensive Rookie of the Year voting.
“With guys like Nick Bosa, Quinnen Williams, and Devin White set to make an immediate impact for their respective teams, there’s no way Ravens rookie Jaylon Ferguson would receive consideration for Defensive Player of the Year, right? Not so fast,” Platko wrote.
“He’ll have every opportunity to win a starting spot opposite Judon on defense and even if someone else, like Tim Williams or Tyus Bowser, cracks the starting lineup ahead of him, expect him to play a significant amount of snaps regardless. Ferguson could approach the territory of 8-10 sacks if things fall into place. Throw in a steady number of tackles and a forced turnover or two, and Ferguson will have a solid case for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Predicting him to win the actual award is a bit out there, but finishing top-five in the voting? Bold, but feasible.”
Tony Jefferson: ‘I’ve Yet to Play My Best Ball’
There’s been plenty of offseason discussion surrounding the Ravens’ defensive losses, but safety Tony Jefferson returns as one of the team’s defensive leaders.
In a Q&A with The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec, Jefferson said his best play is ahead of him.
“I believe in my heart that this year will be one of the better years of my career,” Jefferson said. “I’m comfortable and in a system I believe in. Obviously, I had some learning curves my first year here. The more comfortable I get, the faster I can play, the more I can be myself. … I’ve gotten an opportunity to learn from [Eric] Weddle for two years. Understanding concepts and things like that. I think it’s going to allow me to play faster.”
As a physical box safety, Jefferson has been one of the top run stoppers at the position.
Alongside Earl Thomas, the new teammates ranked as the third-best safety tandem in the NFL, according to PFF, in part because they complement each other so well.
“Over the last three seasons, Jefferson has earned a run-defense grade of 80.2, a pass-rush grade of 70.9 and a coverage grade of 76.1 when he’s lined up within eight yards of the line of scrimmage — making him one of only 10 qualifying safeties who has earned 70.0-plus grades in each facet from their snaps in the box over that span,” PFF’s Mark Chichester wrote.
On Thomas: “He’s graded at 90.0-plus in each of the past two seasons, and his 64 combined pass breakups and interceptions rank second and among safeties since 2010.”
Jefferson admitted that Thomas and Weddle are very different players, but Thomas’ instincts make him intriguing to play with.
“We’re going to play to each other’s strengths,” Jefferson said. “I think we both kind of play the same. We go 100 miles an hour: react and go. That’s kind of our deal. But like I said, I think his instincts are what separates him from a lot of players, being able to dissect plays and stuff like that.”
Jefferson said the focus remains to repeat as the NFL’s top overall defense. Under Defensive Coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale, this group isn’t lacking confidence.
“We have everybody, especially in the back end, guys who have been there before, guys who have excelled at their position,” Jefferson said. “I’m really excited. Not to sound selfish, but I really think I’m going to boost up this defense this year. I’m excited to come back and be with these guys.”
Could Ravens Target a Defensive Lineman?
Despite Brent Urban’s departure in free agency, the Ravens boast one of the deepest defensive line groups in the league. But FanSided’s Nicholas Price speculated that the group could get even better if the Ravens targeted Seahawks defensive lineman Jarran Reed in a trade.
The former second-round pick had a breakout season in Seattle last year, totaling 10.5 sacks and 50 total tackles in 16 starts. Price thinks Reed and Defensive Line Coach Joe Cullen would be a great pairing.
“Since joining the Ravens staff in 2016, Cullen has made Brandon Williams into a Pro-Bowler and Michael Pierce into one of the better nose tackles in football,” Price wrote. “Under Cullen’s tutelage, Reed could hit a new level in his game.”
Price also believes that Reed’s pass rush ability would be beneficial to the Ravens alongside run stuffers in Williams and Pierce.
In terms of compensation, Price believes the Ravens could potentially package a mid-to-late round pick and a player for Reed. Zrebiec wrote that a trade this offseason is “certainly possible,” but the Ravens like to wait until later in the offseason.
Zrebiec pointed to Anthony Averett or Chuck Clark as potential trade candidates in a deep secondary group. Even then, Zrebiec noted that “they’re worth more to the Ravens than a future sixth or seventh-round pick.”
Price didn’t mention why the Seahawks would trade Reed, which seems unlikely after such a breakout season and after they reshuffled their line.