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News & Notes: How Wink Martindale Plans to Utilize Yannick Ngakoue


Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale was elated when he learned the Ravens had acquired Yannick Ngakoue. And he wasn't alone.

Martindale described the reaction from the defensive coaches when General Manager Eric DeCosta delivered the news that Ngakoue was now a Raven.

"My favorite person in the world is Eric DeCosta, I told him that personally," Martindale said. "The whole defensive staff gave him a standing ovation when he was able to come down and tell us we got it done. All of his teammates, all the guys on defense were fired up and happy that we got him."

Defensive coaches love pass rushers, and the trade for Ngakoue made Martindale think back to 2013, when the Ravens traded for Elvis Dumervil and he delivered 26 ½ sacks over his first two seasons in Baltimore. Dumervil joined a team that already had an elite pass rusher in Terrell Suggs. Now Ngakoue will join Matthew Judon, the team's franchise tag player who had 9.5 sacks last season, Calais Campbell who is coming off a three-sack game in Philadelphia, Pernell McPhee, Tyus Bowser and Jaylon Ferguson.

That's a lot of capable pass rushers, giving Martindale even more options. Nobody in the NFL calls more blitzes than Martindale. But with Ngakoue joining the fold, it's possible Baltimore will become a team that doesn't blitz quite as often, yet hits opposing quarterbacks even more.

Martindale was asked whether Ngakoue will "fundamentally change" what he does tactically as the Ravens' play-caller.

"I think that he's able to execute the defense," Martindale said. "So, it's one of those things that I'd like to answer that question, but I think [Steelers Head Coach] Mike [Tomlin] might read the transcripts to this press conference, too. [Ngakoue] just gives us an added dimension that's going to make us better."

Martindale won't give away secrets as to how he will utilize Ngakoue. But Martindale has already been impressed with how quickly Ngakoue has picked up the Ravens' system, giving him a chance to make an immediate impact Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"Our system is easy to teach," Martindale said. "After we got done meeting with him, we felt he'd be ready in two days. He's a smart guy. That's one of the things we look for is smart, tough players.

"He's able to execute the defense. It gives us as an added dimension that's going to make us better."

Greg Roman Says Dez Bryant Had Solid Day 1

The interest surrounding wide receiver Dez Bryant is higher than it is for the typical practice squad player. Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman offered his impression of Bryant's first practice on Wednesday. Practice reps will be very important for Bryant, who has not played in an NFL game since 2017.

"It was good to get him out there working," Roman said. "He's played a lot of football. I thought he had a really good workout the other day, he did a nice job yesterday. We're getting him up to speed with our offense, getting his feet underneath him on the field. We're going to take that day-to-day but it's good to have him on board."

Check out the images from the Ravens' Wednesday practice as they prepare to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Martindale, Judon Discuss Big Ben's Unique Traits

Trying to disrupt the rhythm of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will be a key for Baltimore's defense on Sunday. Roethlisberger is completing 68.2 percent of his passes this season, which would be a career high if he can sustain it. His quarterback rating of 99.6 would also be his best since 2014 (103.3).

Roethlisberger is 38 years old and coming off elbow surgery on his throwing arm, but he's not playing like a quarterback who is anywhere near done.

"It surprises me that he is left out, I think, of the conversation when people are talking about the ageless wonders like Drew Brees and Tom Brady," Martindale said. "I don't know what the extent of his elbow injury was. He reminds of those guys who have the Tommy John surgery and he's coming back throwing the ball more accurate and faster than he was before this injury. He's playing at a really high level."

There has been much discussion about how quickly Roethlisberger is getting rid of the ball this season, faster than any other quarterback on average. The Ravens may try to combat that with press coverage and getting their hands up to deflect passes, which could lead to opportunities for interceptions. Roethlisberger threw three picks against the Tennessee Titans in Week 7. If Roethlisberger holds onto the ball longer than usual, Judon says the onus will be on the pass rushers to bring the big quarterback down.

"I've got a couple of sacks against Big Ben, but they don't call him Big Ben for no reason," Judon said. "He's a fierce competitor. He doesn't like to take hits, no quarterback does. He's just a tough tackle because when you get him in the grasp, he still throws the ball.

"If he wants to throw it fast, pick it faster. We play tight coverage and we're in receivers' faces. So if he gets it to his receivers' faster, it's usually not deeper routes. Deflections, get our hands up as defensive linemen."

Roman Respects Steelers Pass Rush

The last time the Steelers saw Lamar Jackson, they sacked him five times and he threw three interceptions – both career highs for the MVP quarterback. Baltimore still managed to win that game last season, 26-23, in overtime, but the Ravens want to do a better job protecting Jackson on Sunday.

That won't be easy. Pittsburgh leads the NFL in sacks (26), capable of presenting major problems for a quarterback even as elusive as Jackson.

"The Steelers' pass rush, when you're preparing for them, it really starts there," Roman said. "They'll blitz, they'll rush five, and they've got really good pass rushers. They've got guys that really push the pocket well inside. We've got to take that into account every time we pass. There's a lot of different ways schematically that you can help that out. But the bottom line is you've got to execute, understand who we're playing."

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