All offseason I’ve advocated for the Ravens to sign Shane Ray, and it finally came to fruition last week. The former Denver Bronco is a polished pass-rusher who can rush with speed and converts speed to power extremely well. He’s been able to do this for quite some time, as he tied the (then) SEC record for sacks in a single-season.
“Sting Ray” was unanimously selected as a first-team All-American, won SEC Defensive Player of the Year and was selected 23rd overall by the Broncos in 2015. Ray checks many of the cliché boxes, such as: “plays with his hair on fire” and possesses a “relentless motor”.
Shane Ray plays with his hair on (more on snapchat) pic.twitter.com/eWJqAI3BGB— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) November 29, 2016
Ray has an explosive stance that allows his first steps to really press the kick slide ability of offensive tackles. He fires off the ball like a sprinter out of the blocks, keeping the “low man wins” mentality in the war of leverage. He keeps his shoulders and chest over his knees well, maximizing momentum. Shane has the ability to dip his shoulder around the edge with freaky balance and flexibility, contorting his body at ridiculous angles. He runs the arc and swipes or clubs, then rips, if he can’t dip around the tackles outside shoulder.
If he doesn’t initially run the arc, Ray uses a three step hesitation, similar to a crossover in basketball, to see where he can get the blocker to commit. If the lineman goes into a wide kick slide, he crosses their face, slaps their hands and shoots the gap. He uses head fakes to read and react where the tackle wants to go. If he’s able to get lineman flat-footed, he attacks their chest plate with a bull-rush and tries to get pressure, then disengages into the quarterback’s lap. If the Lineman stays inside, then Ray will club or swipe around their outside shoulder, and beat them with speed.
Overall, I would describe Ray’s pass rushing style as an explosive read and react speed rusher, who can convert speed to power. If a blocker compensates too far early, Ray will make you pay with his outstanding reactions and quick hands.
He’s an alpha male who brings thunder with monstrous open field tackles. The Sting Ray creates chaos in the pocket, often lunging or leaving his feet to attack passers and disrupt their throwing motion. Ray is gifted in ways that very few players are. His hand usage, athleticism, balance and flexibility present a limitless ceiling as a pass rusher. If he can put it all together, stay healthy and improve against the run. . . he could develop into a player capable of posting 15 sacks. Reaching that type of production, however, is much easier said than done. Ray possesses an extremely similar skill set to Tim Williams. I would love to see them rush from each side on third and long.
Watch how Ray gets great leverage and uses his strength to knock back Shaq Mason, then bulldoze through Tom Brady. He has great awareness as a pass rusher, keeping his eyes up to find the ball. Ray also possesses surprising strength in his bull-rush time and time again.
I’ve heard the Raiders need some edge rusher assistance. If signed, maybe Shane Ray can bring some of these Philip Rivers sacks to Oakland? pic.twitter.com/4ETQ6iq0Ob— Kris Wysong (@KrisWysong) April 9, 2019
That time, the bull led to a whirling-dervish sack of Phillip Rivers. The strength doesn’t come as a surprise when you see Ray’s workout routine. . .
Perhaps the Ravens took notice of Ray’s social media in the past few weeks to monitor his recovery from wrist surgery (his fourth in three years to repair a torn tendon). Yes, Ray can deaf lift 500 pounds and close-grip bench 400 pounds for multiple reps. Now his bull-rush adds up.
Shane Ray had 3 sacks Sunday, beating Whitworth soundly several times. Just wrecks the veteran LT with a bull rush here. pic.twitter.com/v7n1LgdZ01— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) September 27, 2016
Here Ray bulls into pro-bowl left tackle Andrew Whitworth and makes him look like an oversized sack of potatoes en route to Andy Dalton.
I mean, I love everything Shane Ray pic.twitter.com/8RyEBm4U6f— Ollie Connolly (@OllieConnolly) April 4, 2017
Ray’s explosion and strength allow him to stunt inside like a heat seeking missile. Wink Martindale loves to dial up stunts. The additions of Ray and Pernell McPhee add two versatile pieces to manufacture pressure without having to win one on one. Ray has awesome ability as a pass-rusher. There is a but, though.
He needs to improve significantly at the point of attack as a run defender in order to be more than a situational rusher. He struggles to engage or maintain leverage when blockers attack him. He can chase effectively when the play goes away from him, but can be a liability if blockers attack him in his gap. His cerebral aspect of the run game needs work. Hopefully the communicators on the Ravens defense are able to give Ray a heads up as far as when to expect the run, and how to attack it.
Kolton Miller run blocking v Shane Ray pic.twitter.com/s6dbCSpxe8— Safe Gipsy (@GipsySafety) September 18, 2018
If Ray is coached up, learns to utilize his great core strength and long arms, he should be able to improve in the run game. Being back to his normal playing weight will help him drop anchor, as well. For now, I’m excited to see what he can do on third down or in other passing situations. Along with McPhee, Eric DeCosta has done a solid job replacing some of the pass rush that left with Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith. Smith and Ray were both drafted in the 2015 draft. They have different play styles and Ray will play a different position than Smith along the Ravens line, but numbers would indicate that Ray can replace some of the production that Smith brought:
- Za’Darius Smith since 2015 (58 games) —
14.5 sacks 24 TFL, 52 QB hits, 90.5 plays behind the LOS (1.5 per game)
- Shane Ray since 2015 (49 games) —
14 sacks, 15 TFL, 33 QB hits, 59 plays behind the LOS (1.2 per game)
Ray hasn’t been nearly as stout against the run, but has room to improve in that aspect. He will help create pressure. Perhaps most importantly, the signing is a great insurance policy. It’s unlikely that Matthew Judon, Tim Williams and Tyus Bowser will all be able to play in 16 games each.
Ray has an injury history, himself. His injuries have been to due to a torn wrist ligament, which he just had surgery on this off-season. The injury stems back to 2017 training camp, and lingered through the 2019 season. Ray was unable to weight train because of the wrist injury, reportedly playing at 220 pounds as opposed to his typical 245 pound playing weight. However, following a surgery this off-season, it and appears completely healed according to his 500 pound dead lifts and 400 pound bench presses.
Ray is a Super Bowl champion, has worked under DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller and has flashed as a matchup nightmare at times in his career. His wrist injury doesn’t appear to bother the Ravens, whose medical staff tends to be tedious in their examinations to ensure they aren’t making bad investments in players rebounding from injury.
With the speed rush of Tim Williams and Shane Ray, both who can convert speed to power, the duo should be able to force opposing quarterbacks into the lap of Brandon Williams, Chris Wormley, Willie Henry, Michael Pierce and company. In passing situations I would love to see combinations Matt Judon, Willie Henry, Pernell McPhee, Tim Williams and Shane Ray pin their ears back and hunt.
The addition of Ray also allows for Tyus Bowser to be more of a match up player who can cover running backs and tight ends or blitz from off-ball LB spots. Bowser can be more of a chess piece, rather than a traditional edge rusher. Wink has to be drooling over the possibility for chaos that these talented rushers can create. Good luck to Baker Mayfield, Andy Dalton and Ben Roethlisberger staying upright this season.
Prediction for Shane Ray in 2019: 14 games, 7.5 sacks, 14 QB hits, two strip sacks and one touchdown to put the cherry on top.