Pass Rush Remains Ravens' 'Biggest Concern'
The Ravens thought they had addressed one of their biggest needs when they reached an agreement with edge rusher Za'Darius Smith early in free agency, but the deal fell through.
Baltimore revamped its defense this offseason by loading up in the secondary and bolstering its run defense, but the pass rush remains a question mark.
Tyus Bowser, who is recovering from a torn Achilles, led the Ravens in sacks last season with seven, and rookie Odafe Oweh had five. No other edge defender on the current roster had any sacks in 2021.
"Without question, pressuring the quarterback is the biggest concern the Ravens have going into the 2022 season," Russell Street Report’s Chris Schisler wrote.
The Ravens could have the best secondary in the league, but a subpar pass rush could limit the defensive backs' effectiveness and ultimately prevent the team from making a deep playoff run, Schisler said.
"Having a great secondary increases the chance of coverage sacks where the opposing quarterback holds the ball too long. The secondary helps the front seven, yet the front seven has to hold up its end of the bargain," Schisler wrote. "Without players winning one on one matchups up front the work of the defensive backs only goes so far. The Ravens' lack of difference makers that go after the quarterback could become a weak link.
"The Ravens have a lot of the pieces synonymous with a Super Bowl contender. If they find themselves in the playoffs against Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen, having enough pass rush is essential. The one thing that could hold the Ravens back is pass rush that performs vanishing acts."
That said, there is cause for optimism. It starts with Oweh, who showed flashes last year and could make a jump in Year 2.
"In theory, he could be the double-digit sack artist the team needs," Schisler wrote.
Bowser has shown steady improvement since the Ravens drafted him in the second round in 2017, and his best football might still be ahead of him.
"Tyus Bowser is a better all-around linebacker than he is a pass rusher. The good news is that Bowser is coming off a career-high seven sacks," Schisler wrote. "The light seems to be on and Bowser is one of the hardest workers on the roster. It takes outside linebackers three to four seasons to develop into the players they will be for the peak of their careers. Bowser could be reaching the prime years of his career. The question is how high can his production get?"
Expectations are high for second-round pick David Ojabo, who could be on the field as early as October after suffering a torn Achilles in March, and a reunion with free agent Justin Houston, who played better last season than his 4.5 sack total suggests, wouldn't be surprising.
A player to keep an eye on is Daelin Hayes, a 2021 fifth-round pick who was impressive in the preseason last year. He spent most of his rookie season on injured reserve after suffering an ankle injury in Week 3 and then undergoing a knee procedure.
More pressure from the interior also would help. The addition of veteran Michael Pierce and rookie Travis Jones, as well as the continued growth of Justin Madubuike in his third season, should go a long way in that regard.
Tyler Badie Predicted to Be a 'Surprise Rookie Gem'
Most of the focus on the Ravens' heralded 2022 draft class has been on the likes of Kyle Hamilton, Tyler Linderbaum, Ojabo, and Jones, but the team's final pick — Missouri running back Tyler Badie (sixth round, 196th overall) — shouldn't be overlooked.
Bleacher Report’s Ian Wharton predicted every team's surprise rookie gem, and Badie was his pick for Baltimore.
"Baltimore added Mike Davis from Atlanta on top of welcoming back J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill off injured reserve. And yet, our pick to become a rookie gem is sixth-rounder Tyler Badie," Wharton wrote. "The former Missouri playmaker has great explosiveness and ability to impact the offense as a receiver. He totaled 3,889 yards from scrimmage and 34 scores throughout his career despite only being the primary rusher in his senior season. Watch for his quickness and receiving ability to make a difference as he climbs the depth chart while Baltimore rotates backs in its run-heavy offense."
Baltimore Beatdown’s Joshua Reed also believes Badie, who grew up in Randallstown, will make an impact this season.
"Even though he has yet to put on pads, Badie has already begun impressing as a pass catcher and pass protector in rookie minicamp and OTAs," Reed wrote. "Expect to see Badie on the field early and often to start the regular season, as long as he proves he can hold up in pass protection. Even when Dobbins and Edwards return to full strength, the rookie could by then have carved out a regular role on offense. [Offensive Coordinator] Greg Roman might not want to put Badie back in his 'vault' because he will likely have proven to be a reliable, potentially dangerous option as a third-down running back."
Calais Campbell Reveals Which QB He'd Like to Sack to Reach 100-Sack Milestone
Calais Campbell, who needs 6.5 sacks to reach 100 for his career, was asked by his brother, Jared Quay, which quarterback he would like to sack to achieve the milestone.
Campbell chose the GOAT.
"Honestly, just to get to 100 would be dope," Campbell said on Yahoo Sports’ “The Rush.” "But if I had to pick somebody — because you're my brother, I'm going to pick somebody. Normally, I would just kind of brush it under the rug. … Tom Brady."
The Ravens visit Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday night in Week 8.
"It's kind of early [in the season], but why not? I can get off to a fast start; I have before," Campbell said. "How cool would it be to make history on him?"