Tyus Bowser doesn't plan to waste his opportunity.
The departure of Terrell Suggs and Za'Darius Smith has left the Ravens looking for pass rushers to fill the void. Bowser is one of the most obvious candidates, a second-round pick in 2017 who was a premier pass rusher in college with 22 ½ sacks during his career at Houston.
In two seasons with the Ravens, Bowser has been limited to just 3 ½ sacks, including a half-sack in 2018. However, Bowser sees no reason why 2019 can't be a turning point, and he enters this week's mandatory minicamp with motivation to earn a bigger role.
"Anybody in the NFL would like to be a starter, so of course that's going to be a goal," Bowser said. "I'm not going to give you too many details, but personally, I got a couple of goals in mind."
To realize those goals, Bowser will need to show consistency during practices, and eventually during preseason games. The Ravens signed outside linebackers Shane Ray and Pernell McPhee during free agency and drafted Jaylon Ferguson, the FBS all-time sack leader, in the third round. Outside linebacker Tim Williams is in the mix as well, another 2017 draft pick (third round) who the Ravens hope will enjoy a breakout season.
Ravens Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz believes Bowser and Williams can still become consistent NFL pass rushers.
"The book ain't written yet on the ones we drafted the past couple of years, Hortiz said on "The Lounge" podcast prior to the draft, referring to Bowser and Williams. "Some guys take a little time. They both have shown flashes of it."
Bowser admits the transition from college to the NFL has been an adjustment. He joined a Ravens team that was deep at his position, with the franchise's all-time sack leader (Suggs), last year's sack leader (Smith), and Matthew Judon, the team's returning sack leader with seven last season.
Now Judon needs allies to provide a formidable pass rush. Bowser has learned to be patient over the past two seasons, but this year, he wants to make plays.
"Being that guy in college and being able to just go out there and play, I had to take a step back my freshman year, learning from those guys who were ahead of me," Bowser said. "[It's about] understanding that your time's coming, and you can continue to get better as a player.
"Mentally, just being able to remain patient. Sometimes it's not going to be your turn, sometimes stuff isn't going to work out. You have to be mentally strong."
Bowser had 3 ½ sacks his rookie season, including an impressive takedown of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Hortiz said Bowser's potential for improvement is obvious.
"You go back to his rookie year where he had that critical sack against Pittsburgh where he just flat-out won the rep," Hortiz said. "He beat their right tackle, dipped around the edge, got to Ben in a critical moment. So it's there. We push these guys and we need them to meet us there."
Bowser has worked on defending the run and dropping into pass coverage. But rushing the quarterback remains his bread and butter, the quality most responsible for getting Bowser into the NFL. With Suggs and Smith no longer part of the Ravens' defense, Bowser thinks 2019 should be his year to blossom.
"Of course you hate to see those guys go," Bowser said. "You develop a relationship with them. You learn from them. You see the film and you try to critique your game off them. At the same time, it's a business. Whenever stuff happens, next man up. I'm going to show what I can do."