Ebony Bird Round-Table: Baltimore Ravens to watch in preseason
Darin McCann: Tim Williams
We recently discussed the concept that the 2019 season is crucial for Baltimore Ravens linebacker Tim Williams. If he’s going to make his mark this year, he’s going to have to earn snaps, and if he’s going to earn snaps, his first chance is Thursday night’s preseason opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The inaugural season of Don “Wink” Martindale’s reign as Ravens defensive coordinator taught us that he is adept at using multiple coverage packages and rush combinations, often creating pressure out of scheme design and deception. It was refreshing for many of us who had grown somewhat tired of stale defensive looks and three-man rushes from previous seasons, and it proved to be quite effective, at least with last year’s top defensive ranking in the NFL.
That being said, last year’s team saw Terrell Suggs, Za’Darius Smith and Matt Judon consistently win their one-on-one battles up front, allowing the Ravens to play multiple coverages behind them. Martindale could get creative with five- and six-man rushes, knowing he had physical corners and multi-dimensional safeties on the back end, and floating linebackers and defensive lineman dropping into the passing lanes of quick slants and crosses.
It was really a beautiful thing to watch if you love football.
But Suggs is gone, and so is Smith. Judon should be taking another step with his rush skills this year if he can find more consistency, and the return of a healthy Willie Henry should help with a push from the interior, but one or more other edge players are going to have to contribute in order for this defense to flourish. And Tim Williams is the most physically gifted of those edge rushers.
He is the one the Ravens need to make an impact on passing downs. Signing Pernell McPhee was a great move, assuming health on his part, but he is not as dynamic as Williams. Plus, McPhee has the ability to move inside and rush, which could really give the Ravens a great four-man rush, with Judon on one side, McPhee and Henry on the inside and… who on the other edge? In the best case scenario, it would be Williams, because of his skill set.
But only if he earns it. And he’s going to have to earn it this training camp and in this preseason. Williams needs to consistently beat the guy in front of him and make the quarterback feel his presence. He needs sacks. He needs hurries. He needs hits. And he needs to get the quarterback off his spot.
If Tim Williams takes this spot on passing downs, the Ravens defense should be tough. If not, the team could have a serious concern going forward.
It all starts against Jacksonville.