Ravens sophomore defensive end Pernell McPhee was back at practice for the first time since OTA's. McPhee figures to be an integral part of the Ravens pass rush this season with the absence of defensive player of the year Terrell Suggs.
McPhee said that the Ravens had asked him to put on some weight to become more of a three down linemen instead of a pure pass rushing threat on obvious passing downs. Last season McPhee played at 280 lbs. all season and showed excellent quickness getting after the quarterback. Out of no where, as a rookie, he finished the season second on the team with six sacks, he had several QB hurries and was also above average against the run.
This season Pernell says he has reported to camp at 292 lbs. "It's good weight though", McPhee told reporters. Opposed to bad weight I'm assuming. Let's hope so bevause the Ravens followed similar footsteps with DE Paul Kruger in his second season with the team. His speed did indeed suffer from it. Therefor he wasn't as dominant in his pass rush without that quick first step.McPhee is currently in a battle for the starting defensive end position with third year end Artur Jones. Jones is more of a big bodied run stuffer but has shown excellent quickness this season due to a strict training and conditioning regimen he and his brothers have taken on .
Jones may currently have a bit of an advantage on the field simply because he has been practicing with the team more and teams are usually prone to run more on early downs at the beginning of games. This may technically make Jones the starter in most cases but the two will most likely split time. Although Jones may have the upper hand at the moment, that could change easily if McPhee is back to his havoc wreaking self again. He was unable to participate in full 11-11 drills today simply because the team wants to bring him back slowly to lessen the chances of reaggravating his injury.
"You can’t do nothing but go out there and be hungry and compete every play. You can’t feel like they’re ahead of you even though they are. I’ve got to go out there and block all that out and play like it’s Day 1 for all of us."
Although he understands he needs to take it slow at first, McPhee is confident he will be out there in full practice soon enough.
"[Being out there today] just got me excited because they know they’re getting one of the guys that contributed to the defense last year back," McPhee said. "I’m one step away."
In my opinion the team needs to take it as slow as possible with the young talent simply because he may be their best pass rusher going into the 2012 season. He will be asked to play DE mostly but he has also had success rushing the passer from the inside. So even if Jones wins the starting job I'm sure there will be plenty of times when they both are on the field with differing assignments.
I can't wait to see him this season. He really showed exciting potential last season when nothing was expected from him. Let's hope he can do the same with defenses locked in on stopping him as the Ravens top pass rusher. I just hope that the added weight helps him instead of holding him back as it did Kruger a few years ago.