You should not sleep on the Baltimore Ravens defensive line in 2017. They are more talented than people realize.
To the common fan, the defensive line can be one of the most overlooked positions on the football field. Most of the time, the linebackers and secondary are the ones making the big plays. But none of this would be possible if it weren’t for the defensive line.
Luckily for the Baltimore Ravens, they have solid unit heading into the 2017 season.
Last year, the defense allowed just 89.4 rushing yards per game, which was fifth best in the league. A big reason for this was because of the boys up front. With defense once again a priority this offseason, things are looking bright. There is an abundance of young talent that will be showcased this season.
Let’s take a look at what the Ravens are working with.
Who they lost
Lawrence Guy- FA to Patriots
Timmy Jernigan- Traded to Eagles
While they weren’t huge names, the Ravens lost two of their starters on the defensive line from last season. Lawrence Guy signed with the Patriots in free agency and Timmy Jernigan was traded to the Eagles. But don’t worry, it’s not time to panic.
While the Ravens did lose these two, this didn’t come as a huge surprise. Guy was expected to go because of tight cap space and the team chose to trade Jernigan. It’s obvious they are comfortable with what they have left on the roster. And looking at it, I can’t blame them . There is still a ton of talent left. Some of it might be unproven, but that’s the fun part. This season will be a test for this unit and I think they can live up to the challenge.
Who they added
Chris Wormley- 3rd round draft pick
Brandon Williams- resigned to 5 year deal
The Ravens weren’t able to resign Kyle Juszczyk or Rick Wagner, but they were able to keep one of their big free agents. After back and forth talks, Brandon Williams resigned on a 5-year contract. It was well deserved for the 2013 third round pick who’s been a rock up front. You won’t see a ton of sacks, but thats not expected from a defensive tackle. Williams is a tackle who does the dirty work on the defensive line. He constantly demands double teams, which opens up the holes for the rest of the defense. We should see that same production this season.
Starting alongside Williams will be Michael Pierce. Pierce was a diamond in the rough last season. The undrafted rookie shined in his first season, finishing with 35 total tackles and 2 sacks on the season. At one point during the offseason, he was deemed to be the successor to Williams if he left. Now the two team up together to wreak havoc on opposing offensive lines. Like Williams, Pierce is a monster up front. At 340 pounds he can plug a gap just about as well as any player. And even for his size, he’s extremely athletic.
What a lot of people overlook on this defensive line is the depth. There aren’t household names on paper, but there are a ton of talented young players. Guys like Willie Henry, Carl Davis and Bronson Kaufusi have saw little to no game time because of injuries. Others like Brent Urban are looking for more consistent game time with former starters gone. We also can’t forget rookies Chris Wormley and Pat Ricard. These players can provide more than adequate depth. And ass we know, the defensive line is all about the rotation.
The position that stands out to me the most is defensive end. Like mentioned, Guy and Jernigan are gone. Seemingly, Brent Urban and Bronson Kaufusi are the two players primed to take over the starting spot. The Ravens couldn’t have bigger bodies for the position. Kaufusi stands at 6-6 and Urban at 6-7. If anything, the defense should lead the league in batted balls this season.
The bottom line
While it’s easy to look at the Ravens defense and point out the big names, don’t forget about the defensive line. As a cohesive unit they are quietly one of the best in the NFL last season. The Ravens will and always will be a team built on defense. The defensive success is what has brought them success in the past and it should be the same again this season.