It’s no secret that GM Eric DeCosta wanted to overhaul Baltimore’s defensive line following last season. He did just that by trading for Calais Campbell from the Jaguars, signing Derek Wolfe from the Broncos, and drafting both Justin Madubuike from Texas A&M and Broderick Washington from Texas Tech. Brandon Williams is the only returning starter from last year’s line.
“The Ravens’ unstoppable offense under league MVP Lamar Jackson stole the spotlight for Baltimore in 2019, but the team’s always-tough defensive front heads into 2020 with the potential to be one of the league’s best,” Kelly said. “Longtime stalwart Brandon Williams is the anchor in the middle and outside linebacker Matt Judon (who collected 9.5 sacks in 2019 and will play on the franchise tag) is a rising star on the edge. Tyus Bowser (5.0 sacks) and Pernell McPhee (3.0 sacks) both return to the team’s outside linebackers group, and while interior defensive linemen Michael Pierce (signed with the Vikings), Domata Peko (still a free agent) and Chris Wormley (traded to Steelers) are all gone, the team grabbed some big-name replacements in former Jaguar Calais Campbell, former Bronco Derek Wolfe, and third-round rookie Justin Madubuike. Add in developing role players in Jaylon Ferguson (a third-rounder in 2019) and Daylon Mack (a 2019 fifth-rounder) plus veteran role players in Justin Ellis and Jihad Ward, and this unit looks far more talented and deep than it did last year.”
Kelly continued by saying, “Campbell in particular could propel the Ravens’ defensive line into the stratosphere. Acquired in March for a fifth-round pick as Jacksonville looked to shed salary, the five-time Pro Bowler finished third among interior defensive linemen last season in Pro Football Focus’ pass rush productivity metric (behind only the Rams’ Aaron Donald and Chiefs’ Chris Jones) and racked up an impressive 71 pressures on the year, second among all interior defensive linemen and 11th among all defensive linemen. Baltimore will need breakthrough performances from its edge players in Ferguson and/or Bowser if they hope to reach their full potential, but Campbell’s presence will provide a boost to the players around him and give the team’s young outside linebackers group the chance to create some havoc.”
Despite lacking a quality pass rush last season, the Ravens finished with the league’s fourth defense in total yards. With the addition of several new players who are capable of rushing the passer from the defensive line to go with a suffocating secondary full of All-Pros and Pro Bowlers, Baltimore’s defense could ascend even higher to become a truly dominant unit.