Justin Ellis and Jihad Ward may not be high-profile players, but the fact that the Baltimore Ravens brought them back for 2020 is a big deal.
Right now the Baltimore Ravens starting defensive line features Brandon Williams, Calais Campbell, and Michael Brockers. That unit looks to stack up against some of the league’s top front-threes, but the depth the team has behind them is incredibly noteworthy thanks to the resigning Justin Ellis and Jihad Ward for the 2020 season.
The casual Baltimore Ravens fan may not know who these two are, but it’s understandable considering they combined for just 13 tackles and a single sack in 15 combined games (four for Ellis, 11 for Ward) for the 2019 Ravens.
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Even on the field, the two aren’t game-wrecking or game-altering players. What they are, however, is important depth pieces that will keep Baltimore’s defense rolling.
2019 saw the Ravens roll out with Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce, and Chris Wormley entrenched as the starters. The starting three were solid but it didn’t end up being what the team hoped for. Baltimore surrendered 4.4 rushing YPC in the regular season, tied for 20th in the league. The team was subsequently gashed by the Tennessee Titans in the team’s disappointing playoff loss.
Part of the reason Baltimore was gashed in the run was due to a lack of established depth. The team had no depth after their starters, resulting in three mid-season signings: Ellis, Ward, and Domata Peko. All three performed valiantly, but without a full offseason with the team, they were shaky at times.
This prompted the team to upgrade their line and feature Williams and now the aforementioned Campbell and Brockers. More importantly, the team ensured themselves by bringing back Ellis and Ward back. Now, these two create concrete depth at the position and even offer some versatility.
Justin Ellis is a nose tackle through-and-through, but he can be similar to Brandon Williams and lineup at 3-tech for passing downs. More importantly, he’ll give Williams a chance to catch a breath on the sidelines and make it so the eight-year vet isn’t getting gassed.
Jihad Ward has a big, long frame at 6’5″ 287-lbs. and showed the ability to rush the passer from the edge in limited time with the Ravens. Ward can be the elephant rusher that Baltimore has relied on in the past to through opposing offensive linemen off their rhythm.
It’s also worth noting that Chris Wormley will be moving into a part-time role as well, only further solidifying the team’s depth on the defensive line. We can’t forget about Daylon Mack, either, who should be fully healthy for 2020.
The two may not be Pro Bowlers, but both Ellis and Ward have a significant role to play for the Baltimore Ravens defense moving forward. The starting three are entrenched and battle-tested, and now the guys behind them will make the unit one of the strongest on the team.