Training Camp Position Breakdown: Outside Linebackers

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With training camp fast approaching, we’re breaking down each position’s competition. Today we look at outside linebackers.

In the Hunt

  • Aaron Adeoye, rookie
  • Tyus Bowser, third season
  • Jaylon Ferguson, rookie
  • Markus Jones, rookie
  • Matthew Judon, fourth season
  • Pernell McPhee, ninth season
  • Mike Onuoha, rookie
  • Shane Ray, fifth season
  • Tim Williams, third season

Projected starters

The departure of Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith leaves Judon as the top returning pass rusher. With 15 sacks over the past two seasons, Judon is an emerging player entering a contract year. That’s plenty of motivation to have a strong season. The Ravens haven’t opened a training camp without Suggs since 2002, and it remains to be seen who will emerge as the starter opposite Judon. McPhee, Bowser, Williams, Ray and Ferguson are all candidates, but expect Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale to try many combinations, seeking to generate a consistent pass rush and run support by maximizing players’ strengths.

Best Battle

Bowser and Williams are competing to become the pass rushers the Ravens hoped they would be when they drafted them in the second and third rounds, respectively, in 2017.

Williams has just two sacks in two seasons, both coming last year, while Bowser had just ½ sack last season after recording 3 ½ as a rookie. While sacks don’t measure the total impact of an outside linebacker, Bowser and Williams need to produce more now that they have a bigger opportunity. They have experience in Martindale’s system and the opportunity for playing time is available. This season will help determine their long-term futures and training camp will be an important start.

Under the Radar

With just one sack in both 2017 and 2018, Ray is joining the Ravens with something to prove. He entered the NFL as a first-round pick in 2015 (23rd overall), and the Denver Broncos thought they had drafted a future star. However, after getting eight sacks in 2016, a series of wrist injuries derailed the beginning of Ray’s career. Still only 26 years old, Ray says he’s healthy again. The free agent signings of Earl Thomas III and Mark Ingram II drew far more attention than Ray’s addition. However, if he returns to his 2016 form as a pass rusher, Ray will be one of the Ravens’ most important offseason additions.

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