The Baltimore Ravens made investments to improve its pass rush this offseason with success. Now they add Yannick Ngakoue and perhaps have the league’s best.
Matt Judon received the franchise tag coming off a 9.5 sack season a year ago. Next, Calais Campbell was traded for after notching 31.5 sacks over the last three seasons. Then, Derek Wolfe was signed via Free Agency after recording a career-best seven sacks in 2019. On top of these moves were the returning youngsters in Tyus Bowser and Jaylon Ferguson, as well as bringing back Pernell McPhee. Clearly, improving the pass rush was a top priority for the Baltimore Ravens this season.
To this point, their investments have paid off. Baltimore is currently tied for second in team sacks with 22 through six games. The unit has 13 sacks over the last two weeks alone. While defensive coordinator Don Martindale has been incredibly aggressive in blitzing everyone, especially his defensive backs, the pass rush has been significantly better in 2020.
Now, the Ravens went out and made it even better by trading with the Minnesota Vikings for Yannick Ngakoue. Baltimore sent a 2020 NFL Draft third-round pick and a conditional 2021 NFL Draft fifth-round pick to Minnesota for Ngakoue, who the latter team also traded for this offseason. Ngakoue has five sacks through six games this year, as well as two forced fumbles.
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Ngakoue has been on a roll in 2020 and his addition makes an already good Ravens defense even scarier. It begs the question as to just how good this defense is with Ngakoue now. More importantly, we’re left wondering if the Ravens have the league’s best pass rush.
As of now, Baltimore is on pace for ~59 sacks, a mark they are unlikely to reach; it’s simply a high benchmark that is tough for even elite pass-rushing units. The Ravens do, however, have two players, Campbell and Ngakoue, on pace for ~11+ sacks. We also know that Judon has the upside to be a double-digit sack player, too. That would give Baltimore three double-digit sack players. Most teams are lucky to have one, let alone three.
The Ravens also have good pass-rushing options from the middle of the defense in guys like Patrick Queen, who has two sacks of his own this year. Queen’s ability to generate pressure from the middle of the defense is a secret weapon for this defense.
Baltimore is also a fan of blitzing defensive backs for added fun. The secondary has combined for eight sacks already, including 2.5 from Defensive Player of the Year candidate, Marlon Humphrey. It’s a trend that we will likely continue to see from Don Martindale’s play-calling, as it’s worked wonderfully thus far.
With all these ingredients added together, you have yourself a pass rush that can get after any quarterback in a hurry. The addition of Ngakoue helps the Ravens ability to get rush the passer with just four men but knowing how well this team blitzes means we likely won’t see too much change. No matter what though, we all know now that Baltimore means business.
The Baltimore Ravens pass rush was already a good one before it traded for Ngakoue, but now that he’s in Charm City the sky seems to be the only limit for how good they can be at sacking the quarterback. Stay tuned to see how dominant this unit becomes.