Training Camp Position Breakdown: Defensive Line

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With training camp fast approaching, we’re breaking down each position’s competition. Today is the defensive line.

In the Hunt

  • Willie Henry, fourth season
  • Daylon Mack, rookie
  • Michael Pierce, fourth season
  • Patrick Ricard, third season
  • Zach Sieler, second season
  • Brandon Williams, seventh season
  • Gerald Willis, rookie
  • Chris Wormley, third season

Projected Starters

Williams is coming off his first Pro Bowl season and sets the tone for the defensive line. He’s a key to Baltimore’s defense as a superb run-stopper who often requires double-team attention. Williams is both dependable and durable, playing every game in four of the past five seasons.

Pierce was the Ravens’ highest-graded defensive player last season, according to Pro Football Focus, and should be highly-motivated entering a contract year. However, Pierce raised eyebrows by reporting to mandatory minicamp noticeably heavier. How Pierce looks will be a storyline entering training camp, but when he’s fit, he’s too good to keep off the field.

Wormley has the inside track to start at defensive end following Brent Urban’s departure during free agency. Both Wormley and Sieler looked good during minicamps, and they’ll push each other once training camp starts.

Best Battle

The Ravens use a deep defensive line rotation, creating a constant battle to earn the most playing time.

Two defensive tackles to watch closely are Henry and “Mack Truck” Mack. Henry missed 13 games last season but feels fully recovered from his back injury. A fourth-round pick in 2016, Henry had 3 ½ sacks in 2017 and believes he can help the Ravens’ pass rush by bringing pressure up the middle.

The Ravens took Mack in the fifth round, so his roster spot looks secure. The question is whether Mack makes an immediate impact as a rookie after getting 5 ½ sacks last year at Texas A&M. Once the players put on pads during training camp, Mack needs to show he can hold his own against more experienced players.

Under the radar

Willis joined the Ravens as an undrafted free agent after being bypassed in the draft out of Miami (Fla.). He was suspended at Florida before transferring to Miami, and Willis didn’t play football in 2017. However, Willis regrouped in 2018 and had his best season with 4 ½ sacks last season. He was projected as a third-round pick in an April 19 mock draft done by ESPN’s Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, but his past troubles may have worried some teams. However, for 15 straight years, at least one undrafted rookie has made Baltimore’s 53-man roster and Willis is motivated to prove he belongs in the NFL.

Can Ricard earn a roster spot again in 2019 after making the team the past two seasons as a fullback/defensive lineman? Ricard’s versatility makes him valuable, but the Ravens’ depth along the defensive line will leave them with tough decisions.

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