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10 Questions: Who Steps Up on the Defensive Line?

DT Broderick Washington
DT Broderick Washington

Stopping the run and controlling the line of scrimmage have always been priorities for Baltimore's defensive line under Head Coach John Harbaugh. With Calais Campbell's departure to the Falcons in free agency, Baltimore will look to other members of the defensive line to fill his shoes.

With training camp set to begin on July 26, here's how things stand with the defensive line:

Michael Pierce has fully recovered from a torn biceps.

After playing just 11 games over the past three seasons, Pierce is healthy and determined to re-establish himself as one of the NFL's top nose tackles. Pierce suffered a season-ending torn biceps in Week 3 last season, but he participated in voluntary OTAs this spring and reported to mandatory minicamp in excellent shape.

"I'm just enjoying playing football, enjoying being healthy, and making sure my body is ready to go," Pierce said on “The Lounge Podcast." "For me, it's just about finishing. I'm not worried about anything other than me completing that goal of finishing all 17 games, playoffs, all that."

Pierce was playing well before his injury last season and was the third-highest graded tackle in Week 1 according to Pro Football Focus. At age 30, Pierce and Brent Urban (32 years old) are the oldest players on the defensive line and will fill some of the leadership void left by Campbell's departure.

"It's my turn to step up and be a leader, vocally, and bring those young guys along," Pierce said.

Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington are looking to ball out in contract years.

Madubuike and Washington are coming off their best seasons and have the added incentive of entering the final years of their contracts. Madubuike showed his strength as an interior pass rusher last season with a career-high 5.5 sacks and nine quarterback hits.

Washington played a career-high 44% of the defensive snaps last season and that number could increase in 2023.

"Obviously, we love Calais. I don't think you look at it like we're trying to replace him," Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald said. "We have the guys to do it…we have a great young core of D-linemen. It's a great opportunity for Madubuike, for 'Broddy' [Washington] to really step up their interior pass rush game."

Travis Jones is another young defensive lineman to watch.

As a rookie last season, Jones played at least 20 snaps in each of Baltimore's final four regular season games. He's one of the strongest players on the team and showed obvious potential to play a bigger role in the defensive line rotation if he continues to improve.

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