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Predicting the Ravens statistical leaders in each major defensive category

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Who will post big numbers on defense next season?

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Losing four defensive snap leaders in free agency would prompt many teams to rebuild on that side of the ball. However, in typical Ravens fashion, Baltimore retooled and reloaded by adding Earl Thomas, Jaylon Ferguson, and several others players.

They’ll also be relying on in-house improvement from players like Patrick Onwuasor, Kenny Young, and Tim Williams to replace the production lost from C.J. Mosley, Terrell Suggs, and Za’Darius Smith.

With a mixture of new faces and returning contributors, which players will lead the team in each of the major defensive stat categories in 2019-20?


Tackles

  1. Patrick Onwuasor
  2. Tony Jefferson
  3. Kenny Young

C.J. Mosley had been the Ravens leading tackler in each of the past five seasons, so with him now out of the fold, there’s plenty of slack to be picked up. Stepping into his place will be Patrick Onwuasor, who has a good chance to lead the team in tackles. Onwuasor has good range and pursuit to the ball. He’ll be patrolling the middle of the field throughout the year. Tony Jefferson was second on the team in tackles last season with 74. With Earl Thomas roaming the secondary, Jefferson figures to play closer to the line of scrimmage next season in a box-safety role. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him improve upon last year’s number and potentially wind up as the leading tackler on the team.

Kenny Young showcased great athleticism and sideline-to-sideline range in his rookie season. Even in a limited role, he managed to record 51 tackles, just eight less than Onwuasor. Now, he’ll be possessing a starting role alongside “Peanut”, so he’s a good bet to build upon his tackle total from last season.

Sacks

  1. Matthew Judon
  2. Jaylon Ferguson
  3. Tim Williams

Baltimore has rebuilt their outside linebacker core this offseason. After losing Za’Darius Smith and Terrell Suggs in free agency, the team drafted Jaylon Ferguson in the third round and recently signed Shane Ray and Pernell McPhee. It’s Matthew Judon who figures to pace the edge rusher corps in sacks, though. Judon had seven sacks last year but is talented enough to potentially break double-digits. He’ll be the primary pass-rusher on defense now and Don Martindale will put him positions to succeed. Ferguson is set to make an immediate impact in his rookie season. The NCCA’s all-time leader in sacks is a natural pass rusher with a solid array of power and moves. Somewhere between 5-8 sacks from Ferguson seems within the realm of possibility.

After these two, it’s anyone guess as to who will be third on the team in sacks. Ray and McPhee could potentially make an impact and Onwuasor had 5.5 sacks of his own last season. My bet is on Tim Williams stepping up, though. Williams is entering a make-or-break season and the Ravens are counting on him to replace some of Suggs and Smith’s production. Williams’ talent has never been in question and with more opportunities presented to him, he has a good chance to improve upon his two sacks from last year.

Forced Fumbles

  1. Patrick Onwuasor
  2. Tony Jefferson
  3. Matthew Judon

With tackles comes opportunities to force fumbles, and Onwuasor will have plenty of those next season. He forced two fumbles last season, both of which came in the final five weeks of the year. Against the Chargers in Week 15, Onwuasor was responsible for the game-clinching turnover, as he punched the ball out of Antonio Gates’ arms and Tavon Young returned the loose ball for a touchdown. Jefferson was one of six players tied for second on the team last year with just one forced fumble. However, Jefferson will have more chances to make plays on the ball next year and his aggressive playing style could easily equate to two or more turnovers. Judon is a good bet for at least a forced fumble or two, as well.

Interceptions

  1. Earl Thomas
  2. Marlon Humphrey
  3. Brandon Carr

The Ravens landed maybe the best ball-hawking safety in the league this offseason by signing Earl Thomas. Thomas had three interceptions in the first four weeks of the 2018-19 season, including a multiple-interception game against the Cowboys. His range, play recognition, and instincts are elite and allow him to be in the right place at the right time almost every play. Whereas Thomas makes plays from all over the field, cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Brandon Carr are skilled at creating turnovers when targeted in man coverage. Both players had two interceptions each last season and could very well match that number. Humphrey can potentially take his game to another level, too, so two interceptions is just a starting point.