We’re going through and grading the Baltimore Ravens performances on both sides of the football. Here, we talk about the defense plus special teams play.
Through the first four weeks, the Ravens have a solid 3-1 record and sit in a good place for playoff contention. Through the first few games, plenty of things went well but many went poorly. Here’s the defense and special teams edition.
- Calais Campbell– 14 tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack, five passes defended
- Jihad Ward–10 tackles, one tackle for loss
- Broderick Washington Jr.– One tackle (three games played)
- Brandon Williams– 13 tackles, one tackle for loss
- Derek Wolfe– 12 tackles, one tackle for loss (three games played)
Last season the defensive line was a mess. From struggling to stop the run, to failing to generate pressure on the quarterback, this group needed help. General manager took that challenge and ran, allowing nose tackle Michael Pierce to walk, moving Brandon Williams back to his natural spot of nose tackle. He then acquired Calais Campbell via trade and Derek Wolfe in free agency. He also drafted the presently injured Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington in the third and fifth rounds respectively.
Thus far, the acquisition of Campbell has gone incredibly smooth as he has been a star. It’s clear he’s a fit in the locker room and his size and rushing ability has been clogging lanes next to Williams all season. Williams also looks much better and more comfortable over the center. Derek Wolfe has been slightly quiet when playing before week four but was making an impact along the defensive line.
Another player who has done well is Jihad Ward who has consistently been making plays, setting the edge, and getting into the backfield. Although the numbers aren’t where all of these guys would like, they are collapsing the pocket and stopping the run at a higher rate than last season. For the season the team is tied sixth in rushing yards allowed and is tied third for allowing red zone attempts. These statistics help show the story of the difference between this year and last, it is much harder to move the ball on the Ravens this year.
As Wolfe returns healthy and Campbell continues to get more comfortable within the defense these players will eventually start hitting home on sacks, and tackles in the backfield. Moving forward it will be interesting to see how Defensive Coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale will scheme up pressure. Campbell is 6’8 and Wolfe is 6’5, while Williams is well over 300 pounds. With a versatile set of linebackers, the defensive line’s production can increase with more stunts and twists to help generate pressure and mismatches. Look for the Ravens defensive line to remain strong as long as they are healthy, the last piece of the puzzle is hitting home more often.