Jaylon Ferguson remembers when the light came on in college at Louisiana Tech. It was his redshirt freshman year, against University of Texas-San Antonio, when he “ran into” his first sack.
By the sounds of it, it was less skill, more hustle.
“I was just a young pup who liked to run around,” Ferguson said.
Still, getting his first college sack propelled him into a lot more. Ferguson finished his career as the all-time career sack leader in FCS history with 45, surpassing former Raven Terrell Suggs’ mark during his time at Arizona State.
Now, as Ferguson prepares for his third NFL game in Pittsburgh, he feels like he’s “closing in” on that kind of moment in the NFL.
With the release of 2017 third-round pick Tim Williams this week, the Ravens’ 2019 third-round pick will step into a larger role, and Baltimore badly needs Ferguson to produce.
“I have to do it fast,” Ferguson said. “I don’t have four years to try to learn and get my feet wet. This league is all about what you’re doing for me now.”
Ferguson has certainly learned an early lesson by seeing Williams’ release. The rookie has been soaking up as much as he can from Pernell McPhee, Matthew Judon and others, and now he’ll have to put that – as well as his raw strength – on display.
Ferguson played nine defensive snaps in Kansas City, then 21 against the Browns last Sunday. He’ll likely see quite a bit more this Sunday in Pittsburgh.
“My mindset is to keep on going, keep on working, keep doing what I’ve been doing in practice, doing what I got drafted here to do,” Ferguson said. “[I need to be] the most physical I’ve ever been in my life. This is all or nothing. Put it all on the line.”
Ferguson’s biggest college rivalry was between Louisiana Tech and Southern Mississippi – the Rivalry in Dixie. How does it compare to Ravens-Steelers?
“Maybe not as big of a crowd, but the intensity is still there,” he said.
Center Matt Skura Added to Injury Report
Starting center Matt Skura was added to Thursday’s injury report with a knee issue.
Skura hasn’t missed a game due to injury yet in his three-year career. If he were unable to play in Pittsburgh, the Ravens could shift starting left guard Bradley Bozeman to center or turn to rookies Patrick Mekari or Ben Powers.
The Steelers also have some injury concerns as running back James Conner (ankle), tight end Vance McDonald (shoulder), wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (toe) did not practice for the second straight day. Pittsburgh is on a short week after playing on Monday Night Football.
Chris Board Has Even More Competition Now
Chris Board was headed for a starting job until he suffered a concussion in the Ravens’ second preseason game against the Packers.
Since returning in time for the start of the regular season, the second-year undrafted inside linebacker has been playing behind Kenny Young. Board has recorded 61 defensive snaps in four games.
So what happened? Board said Thursday that his concussion set him back a bit.
“It did affect me a little bit,” Board said. “I’m just adjusting. Whatever role they have me in, I’ll do it to the best of my ability.”
Now, with the addition of veteran inside linebackers L.J. Fort and Josh Bynes, Board has even more competition when it comes to getting snaps.
“It is what it is. That’s when you realize it truly is a business,” Board said. “You can’t really get in your feelings about it. At the end of the day, we’re here to win games. If they think those guys will benefit us, then it will benefit us all.”
Maurice Canady Expects Even More From Himself
Through the first quarter of the season, the Ravens’ biggest and best surprise may be the play of cornerback Maurice Canady.
Canady was released during final cuts to 53 and nobody claimed the fourth-year veteran. Thus, Canady signed back to join Baltimore’s practice squad.
Canady said it was a much-needed wake-up call, though he never lost confidence. He told Head Coach John Harbaugh that he would be back playing on Sundays again real soon.
Following Jimmy Smith’s knee injury, Canady has been a major player in stepping up, and even got his first career interception last week when he undercut a wayward Baker Mayfield pass. Canady also made a couple other impressive plays versus the Browns.
Canady said getting the interception was gratifying, especially given his release just a month earlier, but that he’s not dwelling on it.
“I’m trying to build on that. It’s a stepping stone for me,” Canady said. “There is no triumph without trials.”
Hayden Hurst Is Practicing Well, ‘Very Valuable’ Member of Offense
Hayden Hurst’s rookie season was derailed by a preseason foot injury. He’s healthy for his sophomore season, but still awaiting takeoff.
Hurst’s snap counts have dropped each week so far this season: 43 in Miami, 32 versus Arizona, 22 in Kansas City, and 15 against the Browns.
He has eight catches for 95 yards and one touchdown and is fifth on the team in targets (11).
A big reason is that the 2018 first-round pick is behind fellow second-year tight end Mark Andrews in the Ravens’ passing game pecking order. Rookie wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown leads the team with 34 targets while Andrews is second at 32. They make up 47 percent of the team’s targets.
Hurst is a big part of Baltimore’s scheme as a flexible blocker, and certainly capable of making a big impact in the receiving department if/when needed.
“He practices well, and some weeks will be bigger than others for each guy, depending on how the defense plays us,” Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman said. “He’s doing a great job. He’s a very valuable member of our offense.”
Step inside the Ravens' Wednesday practice as they get ready to take on the Steelers in Pittsburgh.