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Ravens News 3/25: YAC receivers and more

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NFL: New York Jets at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Lamar Jackson’s Ravens Have a Secret Weapon: The NFL’s Next Great Defense - Mike Tanier

The Ravens fielded an excellent defense last season: third in the NFL in points allowed, fourth in yards allowed, fourth in Football Outsiders DVOA. But that defense did have a few weaknesses. The run defense ranked 19th in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders, with opponents averaging 4.4 yards per rush. Also, the Ravens recorded just 37 sacks, 21st in the league.

Most opponents had to abandon the run once the Ravens started whomping them, so a high per-carry average didn’t amount to much for most of the year. And no one except the defensive coordinator frets too much about a low sack total after a 45-6 victory. But minor flaws are still flaws, and the issues with the run defense came to roost against the Titans in the playoffs. A team that finished 14-2 must keep finding ways to improve to get over the playoff hump and keep pace with powerhouses like the Chiefs.

That’s where Campbell and Brockers come in. Campbell has 88 career sacks, 31.5 in the last three seasons. He’s one of the most consistent defensive linemen in the NFL, and he has the versatility to play many different gaps and techniques. Brockers doesn’t post big sack numbers, but he’s the glue that held together both the Robert Quinn-Chris Long defensive lines of Jeff Fisher’s St. Louis Rams (the teams were 7-9, but the lines were great) and the more recent Aaron Donald-Dante Fowler lines in Los Angeles.

2020 NFL Free Agency: Best and worst move made by all 32 teams - Anthony Treash


Best move: Trading for Calais Campbell

Sending a fifth-round pick for the second-most valuable defensive lineman since 2016 behind only Aaron Donald? Sign me up. In each of the past four seasons, Campbell has produced elite 90.0-plus PFF grades and was great as both a run-defender and a pass-rusher. Baltimore’s biggest flaw from last year was its defensive front and, specifically, its ability to generate consistent pressure. The Ravens ranked just 27th as a team in PFF pass-rush grade, but with Campbell, it’s a given that’ll be improved on in 2020.

What’s Still on Ravens To-Do List - Clifton Brown

Edge rusher

Placing the franchise tag on Matthew Judon prevented the Ravens from losing the Pro Bowl outside linebacker in free agency. Judon is coming off his best season with 9.5 sacks, and as good as he was last year, he might be better in 2020 getting help from the improved defensive line that should generate more pressure on quarterbacks next season. But while the Ravens are looking for continued growth from outside linebackers Tyus Bowser and Jaylon Ferguson, expect them to add at least one edge rusher before training camp. Another former Raven who remains on the free agent market is veteran outside linebacker Pernell McPhee, who had three sacks in seven games last season before suffering a season-ending triceps injury in October. Meanwhile, outside linebacker Zach Baun of Wisconsin has also been linked to the Ravens in various mock drafts.

2020 NFL Draft wide receiver rankings: The top 10 WRs ranked by trait; route running, YAC, speed, and more - Chris Trapasso

Yards after the catch

CeeDee Lamb

Jalen Reagor

Laviska Shenault

Jerry Jeudy

Henry Ruggs

K.J. Hamler

Brandon Aiyuk

Tee Higgins

Denzel Mims

Justin Jefferson

Lamb brings tears of joy to my eyes when I watch him after the catch. From vision to cutting ability, to outrageous contact balance, and scary acceleration, he’s the total package with the ball in his hands.

Reagor possesses dynamic athleticism, smooth juking, and plays a lot faster than his 4.47 time on the field.

Throughout this draft process, in my notes, in articles, and on the radio, I’ve repeatedly referred to Shenault as a horse in space. Strong, large with freaky speed and great contact balance. At 6-1 and 227 pounds, NFL cornerbacks are going to have trouble corralling him right away.

Ruggs and Hamler are mostly speed-based YAC receivers yet both flashed some flexibility to cut away from defenders with the ball in their hands.

Aiyuk is a burner with the ball in his hands, and Higgins, Mims, and Jefferson have surprising, efficient YAC ability despite being taller, perimeter wideouts. No one in this group is a liability in this vital area.