The way the Ravens' playoffs ended with Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry rumbling for 195 yards against their proud defense didn't sit well with nose tackle Brandon Williams.
Baltimore ranked fifth overall in run defense last year, surrendering 93.4 yards per game. But the Ravens gave up 4.4 yards per carry, the most in franchise history and up from just 3.7 yards per carry in 2018. The problems were mostly limited to just a couple games, but their inability to contain Henry cost them dearly.
Williams is focusing on 2020, but he admits the Tennessee game has not been forgotten.
"Games like that, you always learn something from it," Williams said. "You're always excited that you can play another season and get that taste out of your mouth. With a guy like Derrick Henry, a runner like he is, you got to make sure you pack your lunch with him."
Stopping the run is priority No. 1 for Baltimore's defense, and the line has changed dramatically with the offseason additions of Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe. Williams thinks Baltimore's run defense can be dominant.
"Wolfe and Calais, got the Twin Towers right next to me, those two giants," Williams said. "I just don't see how offenses can come at us. Those two dudes are good. I like my team."
The new additions will allow Williams to return to nose tackle where he feels most comfortable, after playing 3 three-technique the past several years. Williams believes playing nose tackle will bring out his best.
"I'm pretty much back home, playing what I know," Williams said. "I'm back in my natural habitat. I'm ready to take on double teams, go against centers again, wreak havoc in the middle. That's my job, I'm ready to do it."
Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale said the run defense will be a "major focus" once the pads come on Monday, and he expects the new additions to make a big difference.
"We have gotten bigger where we needed to get bigger at, [and] we have gotten faster where we needed to get faster at," Martindale said. "We have to knock down that run game, because trust me, the Cleveland Browns are going to try to run the ball."
Williams Brings Sexy Back
When Williams looks in the mirror, he likes what he sees.
He's feeling quick on his feet after reporting to training camp in the best shape of his career entering his eighth season. Williams' body has taken plenty of punishment, and at age 31 he wanted his begin training camp feeling better equipped to handle the rigors of defensive line play.
"Being leaner, being more of a pro," Williams said. "Cutting off some of the fat, building more of the muscle. Trying to get my beach body going on, my slim sexy going on. The older you get, the harder it is to get that weight off you, the harder it is to move. When you come in a little bit lighter, it relieves a lot of that pain."
Williams says he didn't lose a lot of weight, but indicated that he had changed his diet.
"Got to eat the greens, got to eat the vegetables and broccoli and what not," Williams said. "Not lighter, but more toned so I can play at nose and keep running the way I do."
Retooled Line Could Help Williams Return to Pro Bowl
After making his first Pro Bowl in 2018, Williams was snubbed in 2019 even though Baltimore finished 14-2 and tied an NFL record with 13 Pro Bowlers. Asked if not making the Pro Bowl last season ticked him off, Williams smiled.
"You know what? If I'm there I'm there, if I make it, I make it," Williams said. "Obviously, you want to be there consistently all the time, but if not, so be it. It's their loss."
If the Ravens' defense is as good on the field as it looks on paper, Williams could be a Pro Bowler again in 2020. However, he'd rather skip the Pro Bowl to play in the Super Bowl the following week, and he believes playing with Campbell and Wolfe will help them all shine.
"At any point in time, any one of us can get off," Williams said. "If you double me, you got Calais one-on-one with somebody. If you double me and Calais, you've got Wolfe by himself. A bunch of different mixtures that we can all play off each other."
Padded Practices Will Test Rookies
Players had to wait longer for padded practices this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Ravens' first practice in pads will be Monday and Williams can hardly wait. He's especially looking forward to seeing how the rookies respond. Apparently, they've been doing some trash talking.
"We've got a lot of these young guys talking and chirping, saying what they can do and can't do or whatever," Williams said. "We're going to silence the talk on Monday and see what they got. As Ravens, we practice hard anyway. They better be ready."
Expect Williams to play close attention to the defensive rookies who are expected to see regular action, like inside linebackers Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison, who may start side by side. The Ravens drafted a pair of defensive tackles, Justin Madubuike (third round) and Broderick Washington Jr. (fifth round) who could be part of the defensive line rotation.
"Madubuike, he's come along great," Williams said. "He's still a rookie so he's got a lot of things to learn. But he's getting it. His footwork and hands are coming along great.
"Broderick, he's got a lot of raw talent. He's coming into his own, getting the playbook down. I told him once he gets the playbook down, it'll free your mind, free your feet. You can play a lot faster when you know everything you're supposed to do."