Ravens: Jaylon Ferguson has a lot to prove in training camp

Jaylon Ferguson, Ravens (Photo by Silas Walker/Getty Images)
Jaylon Ferguson, Ravens (Photo by Silas Walker/Getty Images) /

Will the real Jaylon Ferguson please stand up? The Baltimore Ravens need a dependable pass-rusher more than ever going into the 2021 season, and it’s up to Ferguson to seize the moment.

After losing their best edge rushers in Yannick Ngakoue, Matthew Judon, and Jihad Ward, the Ravens don’t have many options on the edge.

2021 NFL Draft picks Odafe Oweh and Daelin Hayes will have to adapt to the NFL while Pernell McPhee is only getting older. They have Tyus Bowser, who was recently named Baltimore’s best-kept secret, but he’s got his own weight in gold to prove.

At training camp, the pass-rushing jobs will be up for grabs for the player that deserves it most. Out of the bunch, Ferguson should want the job more than anyone else, and he should be trying harder, too.

To say the 2019 third-round draft pick has disappointed in his first two seasons for Baltimore is a gross understatement.

Coming out of the draft, Ferguson possessed all the textbook qualities of an elite pass-rusher and seemed like a plug-and-play, square peg in a square hole fit for the Ravens’ defense.

He even drew comparisons to former Ravens’ linebacker Terrell “T-Sizzle” Suggs when Ferguson first arrived in Baltimore, and for good reason.

At Louisiana Tech (albeit a smaller school with less competition), Ferguson broke Suggs’ all-time sack record in the NCAA (45), earning him the ever-so-refined nickname “Sack Daddy.”

Check out Ferguson’s draft hype video:

But Ferguson and Suggs’ pro careers could not be more different.

In two seasons, Ferguson has just 4.5 sacks, 61 combined tackles, 14 quarterback hits, one fumble recovery, and one pass defended. Last year, he saw fewer and fewer defensive snaps as the season went on and sat out in the playoffs.

Jaylon Ferguson needs to make a statement in Ravens’ training camp

That college nickname will surely get a chortle out of his opponents now, as Ferguson is hardly anyone’s “daddy” in the NFL.

Ferguson played a little more than a quarter of defensive snaps in 2020, but this year, he won’t be competing against the same high-profile heavy hitters for the edge-rushing spot.

Heading into his third season with the Ravens, he’ll get his opportunities on the field, no doubt. The question is, can he take advantage of them?

The last Ravens’ defender to notch 10 or more sacks in a single season was none other than Terrell Suggs, who recorded 11 sacks in 2017. Judon nearly equaled his totals with 9.5 in 2019, and linebacker Za’Darius Smith came up with 8.5 sacks in 2018.

Given Ferguson’s current production, it’s highly unlikely he’ll be able to produce double-digit sack numbers. But there are other gauges of a pass-rusher’s impact: quarterback hits, hurries, pressures, pass rush win rate, and so on.

Ferguson just needs to show that he is a consistent and disruptive defender behind the line of scrimmage. Not can be, is.

This is Ferguson’s make-it-or-break-it shot to finally live up to even an ounce of his potential. His coaches want him to succeed. His fans want him to succeed. It’s easier said than done, but then again, what isn’t?

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This training camp, Jaylon Ferguson needs to shake off the dust, block out the critics, and fight for his right to rush.