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Ravens News 8/7: Formidable pass defense and more

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Baltimore Ravens Portraits Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

3 stats to know about the Baltimore Ravens’ defense entering 2020 - Aaron Kasinitz

1) The Ravens held opposing quarterbacks to a 77.5 passer rating in 2019, the second lowest in the league

It’s no coincidence that the most formidable aspect of the Ravens’ secondary in 2020 was the defense. Baltimore’s most expensive free agent signing last year brought Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas to town, and general manager Eric DeCosta engineered a mid-season trade to acquire star cornerback Marcus Peters.

Those players joined former first-round picks Marlon Humphrey and Jimmy Smith in the defensive backfield.

And the Ravens’ pass defense, in most regards, performed up to standard that reflected the heavy investment. Baltimore ranked in the Top 5 in the NFL in opponent completion percentage (58.5), touchdown passes (15) and yards per pass attempt (6.6) in addition to passer rating.

All this matters in 2020 because while the team reconfigured its front seven this offseason, it kept much of the secondary personnel in place. Smith, Humphrey, Peters and Thomas are all back in 2020, as is safety Chuck Clark, who stepped into a starting role and offered a stabilizing presence midway through last season.

NFL bounce-back candidates for 2020: Picking players for all 32 teams - Anthony Treash

BALTIMORE RAVENS: CB TAVON YOUNG

PFF overall grade in 2018: 62.7

What went wrong: After earning an impressive 76.3 PFF grade across 833 snaps as a rookie, Young’s incredibly unfortunate run of injuries has limited him to only 602 snaps over the past three seasons, including zero in 2019 as he injured his neck last August. Young was the 20th-highest-graded corner in coverage in 2016 and even edged out Jalen Ramsey as the highest-graded rookie at the position. We’ve seen a lot of good from Young, and now the injuries just need to stay away for him to get a chance to bounce back.

NFL’s 30 best players over 30: Tom Brady, J.J. Watt not in top 10 - Ali Bhanpuri & Tom Blair

23. Earl Thomas

Baltimore Ravens · FS · Age: 31

In his first year with Baltimore, Thomas accounted for the same number of pass rushing snaps (62) as he had in his previous eight seasons combined in Seattle, per PFF. The shift to fewer coverage snaps — and far fewer snaps overall — than what we saw from the Pro Bowler earlier in his career seemed to lead to more efficiency, as he limited QBs to just 81 yards on 6-of-20 passing for a 4.4 overall passer rating when he was the nearest defender, according to Next Gen Stats. While the decision to play the three-time All-Pro more as a box safety might have stemmed from need (Ravens ranked 21st in disruption rate, per NGS) than a decline in his range, it’ll be interesting to see the 31-year-old’s snap breakdown in 2020 now that Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe have joined Baltimore’s front.

10. Calais Campbell

Baltimore Ravens · Edge · Age: 34

You have to feel good for Campbell, who will have perhaps his best shot at a ring since he was a rookie member of the Cardinals team that reached Super Bowl XLIII. It’s nice when things fit together, and putting Campbell with the Ravens just feels right. Don’t be distracted by his apparently low sack total in Jacksonville (6.5) last season; among those with 800-plus snaps, Campbell earned PFF’s top grade in run defense, finishing with the third-best overall defensive grade among interior linemen and the sixth-best defensive mark among all players. He also finished 10th in stuff percentage (5.1%), per NGS. The 2019 Walter Payton Man of the Year is positioned to bring both veteran leadership and A-plus defensive production to one of 2020’s most imposing contenders.

TE Jacob Breeland clears waivers, placed on Ravens’ reserve list - Kevin Wade

The Baltimore Ravens have retained tight end, Jacob Breeland, on Thursday after the former Oregon Duck was able to clear waivers. Earlier in the week, the Ravens waived Breeland in the hopes that no other team would sign him with the tight end expected to miss all of the 2020 NFL season.

The team announced the roster transaction, which allows Breeland to be with the team in 2020 in an active role but not count towards the roster limit. As Breeland rehabs his ACL injury that cost him the second half of the 2019 season at Oregon, he’ll be on the active non-football injury list and able to workout with the Ravens this fall with the plan of playing for the Ravens in 2021.

The Ducks leading pass catcher for the first six games, Jacob Breeland missed the second half of the season with a knee injury suffered against Colorado. Breeland was honored with the placement on Pro Football Focus’ Midseason All-American Team due to his performance in the first six games. Breeland’s first six games of the season made him a massive riser as a potential 2020 NFL Draft pick. Multiple outlets started to include Breeland in their mock drafts including CBS Sports which had Breeland as a first-round pick before the injury, though the prospect didn’t appear in many mock drafts since his injury.