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Should the Ravens start Carl Davis over Jernigan?

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports
The defensive line was considered a strength coming into the pre-season, and it still might be, but there are several variables. Although the depth has been diminished by an injury to Brent Urban and a disappointing effort from Kapron Lewis-Moore, DeAngelo Tyson, and Christo Bilukidi, the potential is still there. The biggest variable would be the contributions of 2nd year defensive end Timmy Jernigan and rookie DL Carl Davis, the two players tasked with replacing the production of pro-bowler Haloti Ngata.

Jernigan showed his abilities throughout the 2014 season, performing extremely well during Ngata's 4 game suspension for PED's. The presumed starter, he has continued to look phenomenal during training camp and the preseason. However, the biggest issue for Jernigan seems to be his health. Although Dean Pees is known for keeping his defensive lineman fresh and rotating them in and out, Jernigan has displayed trouble consistently staying on the field. After battling a knee injury last September and then an ankle injury last December, Jernigan is now out with another ankle injury which now has him questionable for week 1 against the Denver Broncos. The Ravens need his contribution to the pass rush, so although this injury is not considered serious, his history is still concerning.

Carl Davis has also been quite impressive. He has played a large quantity of snaps in all the preseason games, and has performed well. Although there are questions about Davis giving consistent effort which was noticable at times during the preseason, the rookie looks to have the ability to perform at a very high level in the NFL.

–(Q1, 3:10) The Ravens stopped Morris for a loss of 1 on 4th and 1 with a front 6 of Williams, Davis, Guy, Canty, Upshaw, and Suggs. I don’t think any other NFL team can field a better front 6 in short yardage.
–(Q2, 2:09) Davis knocked Cousins pass back to the QB, 9 yards behind the LoS. Unfortunately, no one could take down Cousins before he had 12 YAC for a gain of 3.
–(Q2, 1:05) For the first time I have noticed, Pees dropped Davis to cover on a zone blitz. The pass went left to Grant and Davis pursued for initial contact on a 12-yard gain.
–(Q3, 14:16) Davis had the initial pressure to flush McCoy on what would end up as a 14-yard pass following 3 more opportunities to defend the play.
–(Q3, 13:32) Davis pushed by a double team from Long and Leribius to slow Jones. Orr then met him violently in the hole to hold the gain to 3.

Most of Davises snaps have come when not paired with the entire starting defense, so if his performance was impressive then, it should be even better when paired with higher level players alongside him. Of course one could also argue that the level of his competitors was lower too, but Davis has been impressive against starters too.

This all leads to the big question: should the Ravens start Davis over Timmy Jernigan?

Davis seems to be a more durable player, and keeping Jernigan healthy is very important for the Ravens season, especially with Urban out. However, with Davis slated to backup other positions along the line too, this would likely make it harder for the coaching staff to maintain good substitution patterns. Jernigan is clearly the better player at this moment, but bringing him off the bench may help him harness his best efforts in bigger situations, similar to the way the Ravens use Elvis Dumervil and Courtney Upshaw.

Either way, the Ravens look to be in good hands with these two young studs. What do you think?