Jaylon Ferguson is the biggest winner of the Ravens offseason. Let me explain:
Jaylon Ferguson is entering a very promising second season with the Baltimore Ravens. The offseason moves that Eric DeCosta has made really put Ferguson is an optimal position. So much of the talk about the additions of Derek Wolfe and Calais Campbell has been about how it will help Matt Judon get to the quarterback. It may have a bigger impact on Ferguson.
Ferguson wasn’t a great edge setter against the run and at this point in his career he really only has one gear. He’s a pass rusher who just wants to put his head down and race to the quarterback. Ferguson, who is the all-time NCAA sack leader, is still an unfinished product. The additions on the defensive line will make his deficiencies less of a problem.
While interior pass rush is a key part of what Wolfe and Campbell bring to the Ravens, they also will help with the run defense. A dominant defensive line will put less pressure on the outside linebackers. More plays will be blown up in the backfield from the long reach of Baltimore’s defensive ends. Offensive tackles will have a lot more to worry about with Campbell and Wolfe than they did with Chris Wormley and Brandon Williams playing out of position. Patrick Queen will also help by being aggressive against the run.
If Pernell McPhee stays healthy, the Ravens will have a healthy rotation at the outside linebacker spot. They can pick and choose their spots with Ferguson. Leaning on him a little less will allow him to develop more as a pass rusher. That’s the development that is going to make or break his career. If he becomes only decent as a run defender but is a sack artist off the edge he will have a very lucrative second contract in the NFL.
Judon basically doubled his production from his rookie season to year two in the NFL. It wouldn’t take much for Ferguson to double his production. We’re talking about two and a half sacks and only 31 total tackles.
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If the light comes on even a little bit, and the coaching staff lets him play to his strength (bulldozing his way to the quarterback) he could more than double his production. Six to eight sacks is a very doable number for Ferguson. That’s a good goal.
Ferguson is only entering his second season and the coaching staff has plenty of reason to keep working with him. This isn’t a make or break season for the former Louisiana Tech standout, but it is one for Tyus Bowser. The Ravens still haven’t gotten the pass rush they were hoping for out of the 2017 draft class. Bowser has become a solid edge player but still hasn’t found a ton of success in terms of production.
The Ravens didn’t draft as if the outside linebacker position was a desperate need for them. That’s not just a compliment to Judon, but one for Ferguson as well. The Ravens are basically walking into the season with the same group, meaning none of the outside linebackers lost opportunity during the offseason. In fact, it’s almost like the Baltimore front office and coaching staff is begging one of their young players to step up at this position. They’re banking on it, and if I had to bet, they’re banking on Ferguson.
Ferguson should have a better second season. Everything the Ravens did on defense ended up benefiting his situation. He didn’t get more competition and he’s not a rookie anymore. He has a big chance to re-earn his nickname of “Sack Daddy” in the pros.