Ravens’ Pass Rush is Ranked Sixth-Thinnest Position Group
The Ravens’ secondary was ranked as the deepest position group in the league by NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling recently, but another Ravens unit has landed on the opposite end of the spectrum.
Baltimore’s pass rushers were ranked sixth on Wesseling’s list of thinnest position groups.
“While the back end of Baltimore's defense is loaded, the same can't be said about the front seven,” Wesseling wrote. “The departed quartet of Za'Darius Smith (63), Terrell Suggs (55), Brent Urban (22) and C.J. Mosley (15) tallied more sacks, hits and hurries (155), according to Pro Football Focus, than the rest of Don ‘Wink’ Martindale's defense combined (153).”
Wesseling wrote that Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta opted to “take fliers” on Shane Ray and Pernell McPhee “rather than replace that production with marquee free agents.”
That’s not entirely accurate, however. The Ravens aggressively pursued All-Pro Gerald McCoy and brought in Pro Bowl player Ezekiel Ansah for a visit.
Regardless, even though Ray and McPhee were not considered to be splashy signings, it doesn’t mean their potential to contribute should be dismissed.
“Ray totaled eight sacks and 21 quarterback hits for the Broncos in 2016 before multiple wrist injuries played a part in stalling his rise,” Penn Live’s Aaron Kasinitz wrote of the former first-round pick. “The Ravens … could slide him into a role tailored for a speedy edge rusher. If Ray stays healthy and regains his early career form, perhaps he’ll provide the type of pass-rushing pop Baltimore needs.”
McPhee, a fifth-round pick of the Ravens in 2011, developed into a strong, versatile pass rusher during his four seasons in Baltimore before departing in free agency. He provides flexibility to rush from multiple spots.
Beyond starting outside linebacker Matthew Judon, who is in the final year of his rookie contract, Wesseling contends the Ravens “will have to lean heavily on third-round rookie Jaylon Ferguson as well as untested Tim Williams and Tyus Bowser, a pair of 2017 draft picks unable to crack the pass-rushing rotation in their first two years.”
Wesseling added that “Martindale might have to scheme up his pressure this time around.” To that point, with Martindale – who was ranked the top defensive coordinator in the league by former NFL executive Michael Lombardi – calling the plays, Baltimore’s pass rush may be greater than the sum of its parts.
“In Defensive Coordinator Don Martindale's system, the rush can come from either the defensive end or the linebacker spot, so this could end up as more of a group effort on a rotational basis,” Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox wrote.
Upon further review, perhaps the Ravens’ group of pass rushers isn’t as thin as some might perceive.
Ronnie Stanley vs. Myles Garrett Among NFL’s Top Matchups
The Ravens and Cleveland Browns could very well be battling each other (as well as the Pittsburgh Steelers) for the AFC North Division title this season, and one of the more compelling individual matchups when Baltimore and Cleveland meet pits Ravens left tackle Ronnie Stanley against Browns edge rusher Myles Garrett.
Pro Football Focus’ Ben Linsey selected 17 matchups – one for each week of the regular season – that he’s excited for this year, and he tabbed the Stanley-Garrett head-to-head competition as the one to watch in Week 4.
Stanley, selected sixth overall by the Ravens in 2016, and Garrett, chosen No. 1 overall by the Browns in 2017, are considered two of the best young players at their respective positions.
“In just his first two seasons, Garrett has established himself in the upper tier of edge defenders in the NFL, recording a two-year grade of 88.4 since 2017, which ranks ninth in the league,” Linsey wrote. “On the other side, Stanley has been steady as they come to start his career, grading between 74.8 and 75.8 all three seasons while playing 800 or more snaps each year. He has performed at a high level in pass protection specifically. Last season, Stanley’s pressure rate allowed of 3.5 percent trailed only Tyron Smith at left tackle.”
When they matched up during the past two seasons, Stanley has more than held his own against the 2019 Pro Bowl starter.
“In 76 pass-rush snaps against the young Ravens’ left tackle, Garrett has just three hurries, one hit and one sack,” Linsey wrote. “That pressure rate of 6.6 percent ranks sixth-highest among the 13 individual matchups in which Garrett has had at least 25 pass-rushing snaps.”
Matt Skura Discusses Marshal Yanda’s Influence on Him
Earlier this week, our own John Eisenberg wrote about the strong leadership qualities of Ravens guard Marshal Yanda. He’ll certainly get no argument from center Matt Skura.
Skura spoke about the influence Yanda has had on his career during an appearance on Glenn Clark Radio.
“I would say he's been a pretty instrumental part in my career thus far,” Skura said. “My rookie year on practice squad, it just so happened I sat next to Marshal during meetings. I began asking him questions like, 'Hey, how do you watch film, what do you look for? I just started picking his brain. That whole year, I learned so much from him. Being able to play next to him, he just has this calm but strong demeanor about him in games that you can rely on.”
Ironically, Skura got an opportunity to show what he had learned from the veteran in his second year (2017) when Yanda suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 2 and Skura replaced him at right guard for the remainder of the season. While Skura wasn’t up to Yanda’s All-Pro level, he was competent.
Skura moved to center last season and started all 16 games in place of Ryan Jensen, who had left in free agency to become the league’s highest paid center in Tampa Bay.
Among the other topics Skura discussed with Clark were his efforts to raise awareness for childhood cancer and pediatric brain tumors through the NFL’s My Cause My Cleats campaign.
Skura’s sister-in-law, Avery, 13, was diagnosed with a non-cancerous brain tumor when she was 2.
“Her family going through that was a really tough time for them, trying to understand what is going on and how to navigate the treatments," Skura said.
Skura said that he plans to bring kids affected by brain tumors and their families to some Ravens home games and also visit kids at hospitals.
- The Ravens’ trio of Marlon Humphrey, Jimmy Smith and Tavon Young were ranked as the league’s No. 2 cornerback trio by Pro Football Focus’ Mike Renner and Sam Monson.
- 12up’s Brian Cass named Ravens great Ray Lewis one of five former NFL players he’d like to see become a general manager. “He would … probably give his team their pregame speech before every contest, and that's something we need to see,” Cass wrote.