Where will the Ravens find more sacks?
That has become a popular question for players and coaches with Baltimore tied for 24th in the NFL in sacks with nine, including just one sack in each of the last two games.
Matthew Judon and Pernell McPhee are tied for the team lead with three sacks and Judon is optimistic for several reasons that Baltimore’s pass rush will trend upward soon.
He likes the way rookie pass rusher Jaylon Ferguson is developing, and the return of Patrick Onwuasor to weakside linebacker should allow him to become a more effective blitzer.
After starting at middle linebacker for four games, Onwuasor returned to weakside linebacker in Week 5 as newly-acquired Josh Bynes took over at middle linebacker. Onwuasor had 5 ½ sacks last year playing at inside linebacker, compared to one sack so far this season.
Those developments should help the Ravens’ pass rush, but Judon also believes the players must step up collectively.
“You know, it’s hard,” Judon said. “Some of the quarterbacks have been getting the ball out pretty fast against us, and then other teams, they just hold the ball. And then we’ve been getting some pretty good blocking schemes.
“But when it really comes down to it, we have to win our one-on-ones up front. We have to help our defense. We have to do a better job of getting to the quarterback and applying pressure and helping our secondary out so they don’t have to cover forever.”
Ferguson does not have a sack yet, but sacks don’t tell the entire story of a pass rush and Judon sees improvement from the third-round rookie.
“Growth, every game, growth,” Judon said. “If you go back and watch, he’s using his hands better now. It’s the NFL, and the more reps you get, the more experience you get, the better you become. I think he has all the talent and all the potential, he just has to keep getting reps.”
Only two quarterbacks have been sacked more than Cincinnati's Andy Dalton (20), so the Ravens pass rush has an opportunity to turn up the heat this Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.
Onwuasor Loves Return to Weakside Linebacker
No matter what role Onwuasor is asked to play for the Ravens, he’s willing to try.
He made the roster in 2016 as an undrafted player from Portland State and worked his way up the depth to chart to become one of the team’s most important defensive players. Onwuasor played his best football last year at inside linebacker.
But this offseason he moved over to the middle linebacker position to replace Pro Bowler C.J. Mosley, who signed during free agency with the New York Jets. Now that he’s back at weakside linebacker with Bynes at MIKE, Onwuasor loves it.
“I feel way more comfortable,” Onwuasor said. “I was flying around. That’s my natural position. It just felt like it fit me perfectly and I think [Defensive Coordinator] Wink [Martindale] could tell a little bit that I like that position a little bit better.”
Loss of Tony Jefferson Will Take Getting Used To
Tony Jefferson is a huge presence, not just on the field but in the locker room as a veteran leader. The Ravens accept the challenge of playing the rest of the season without their veteran safety following his season-ending knee injury, but they’re still adjusting to the new normal.
“The loss of Tony, it's really hard,” Onwuasor said. “It still doesn't feel real. We talk to him every day just to keep him positive and keep him motivated, but I think DeShon [Elliott] and Chuck [Clark] are going to come in and do a great job."
Judon said Jefferson still planned to be a regular presence around the team, something the players welcomed. Jefferson was on crutches moving around the Under Armour Performance Center Wednesday afternoon.
“He’s still in the locker room,” Judon said. “He’s still in our meetings, as of right now. I know he’s going to have some stuff he has to go through by himself, but we’re going to be there for him, and it seems like he’s going to be there for us and supporting us. He’s correcting guys in meetings and on the walk-through as much as he can, so that’s really the only thing we’re going to miss, is him out here on the field.”
Ravens Move On From Questionable Calls in Sunday’s Game
Several controversial calls or non-calls went against the Ravens during Sunday’s victory in Pittsburgh. After receiving the post-action report from the NFL, Head Coach John Harbaugh said he did not learn of any coaching points that he could pass on to players to help them.
One non-call that went against the Ravens led to an interception thrown by Lamar Jackson. Tight end Mark Andrews appeared to be interfered with on the play, but no penalty was called. The ball deflected off Andrews into the arms of Steelers safety Kameron Kelly.
The play was automatically reviewed, but the call stood. Harbaugh said if pass interference isn’t called on the field, it seems unlikely that a replay review will result in a penalty.
“About the only thing you can expect to get is maybe a pick that's clear and obvious on tape on offensive pass interference,” Harbaugh said.
“I don't think anything's going to get overturned besides that. We've had three or four of those that have come on either interceptions or scoring plays, so we can't challenge them anyway, and I guess they didn't notice them. So, it hasn't meant much, in all honesty."