The Ravens built this year's draft around the defense.
Picking four defenders in the first three rounds was a clear effort to help rebuild the defense in the short term and for years down the road, and the rookie who looks primed to make the most immediate impact is outside linebacker Tyus Bowser.
The second-round pick out of Houston has flashed with his pass-rush ability and nose for the football, and the Ravens have big expectations for him this season.
"Football really matters to Tyus," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "He really wants to be a good football player. It's all he thinks about. That's why he's going to be good, plus the talent. He's a super talented guy. I would expect a lot from Tyus this year."
The Ravens drafted Bowser with the No. 47 pick in large part because of his pass-rush ability. He notched 22.5 sacks during his college career, and he has impressive explosion for his position.
But he's more than just a pass rusher, and the Ravens have dropped him into coverage and worked with him at setting the edge against the run. He's shown ability in all of those areas.
"Pass rushing and dropping back in coverage comes along with it, but the No. 1 thing that coach [Don Martindale] wants us to do is to hold down the edge, so he has been a huge support in that along with everybody else that has been helping me out," Bowser said.
Transitioning to the NFL is difficult for any rookie, and part of the challenge for Bowser is that he's undergoing a minor position change. He played weak-side linebacker in college, but now he's on the strong side where he's lines up across from right tackles. The strong-side linebacker typically takes on more responsibility in communicating with the rest of the defense.
"Moving to the strong side and being a little more vocal as far as my communication out there to the defensive line and to the linebackers – that is just a little bit different that I have to get used to," Bowser said. "All my coaches and teammates have been helping me out really well, especially Matt Judon."
Bowser, 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds, hasn't looked overmatched at all this summer. He's applied pressure on quarterbacks during training camp and preseason games, and he figures to be an important piece in the outside linebacker rotation.
Terrell Suggs and Judon are in line for the starting jobs, but the Ravens also plan to mix in Bowser, Za'Darius Smith and Tim Williams to keep everyone fresh throughout the season.
Adding new life to the pass rush was a top priority this offseason, and Bowser's arrival will go a long way in that department. The Ravens have already shown an improved pass rush during the preseason, and they have to carry that into the regular season if the defense is going to continue to be among the league's best.
"This is a defense that takes pride in it and wants to go out there and prove to the NFL that we are the best defense in the league," Bowser said. "We just go out there and we go on film and we go to practice and we take advantage of the moment to go out there and be our best and just to work on our craft and continue to help each other build as a defense to go out there and be our best on the game field."