The Baltimore Ravens boast one of the best starting interior defensive lines in the league when healthy. That wasn’t the case for chunks of the year in 2020, because Pro Bowl veterans Brandon Williams and Calais Campbell missed a combined seven regular-season games due to injuries and COVID-19.
In a recent appearance on the Lounge Podcast via the team’s official website, recently re-signed veteran defensive tackle Derek Wolfe went on an unprompted rave about Justin Madubuike. He believes the future of the Ravens’ defensive trenches is in great hands with the 2020 third-rounder, who was drafted 71st overall out of Texas A&M.
“This guy is a monster, he’s a beast,” said Wolfe. “He’s got the ability to become an All-Pro football player. He’s everything you could ask for in a young football player and he’s just going to get better and better and better.”
Wolfe went on to express his level of excitement about being able to help Madubuike develop going forward and called him a sponge that soaks up all the knowledge he can from his coaches and veteran mentors.
As a rookie, he registered 19 total tackles, one sack, two tackles for loss, and a pair of quarterback hits in 10 games, including three starts. In two playoff games, he recorded two solo tackles, three combined, and batted down a pass at the line of scrimmage.
A soft tissue injury he suffered in training camp delayed his debut to start the season, but once he got healthy and acclimated, he came on very strong for the Ravens down the final stretch of the season. He stepped up and performed admirably when Brandon Williams and Campbell were out. In some games, he was borderline dominant as the team made their push for the playoffs.
Wolfe believes that the 23-year-old is tailormade to play defensive tackle in the Ravens’ 3-4 hybrid scheme and has all the athletic traits to excel dominate at the position
“He’s got so much explosiveness and strength and quickness and everything you could ask for from a three-technique. He’s the perfect three-technique. You couldn’t build him better.”
Madubuike wears his 6-foot-3 and 304-pound frame very well and physically resembles Campbell who plays defensive end/five-technique. His physical dimensions will allow him the positional versatility to be utilized in both spots and since the Ravens rarely run their base defense, he could regularly rotate in at either one.
He only played 24 percent of the Ravens’ defensive snaps last season—260 in total—but was still able to earn a solid 72.1 overall grade from Pro Football Focus. Coming out of college he was praised for his upside as an interior pass rusher, which he flashed several times as a rookie even if the stat sheet didn’t back it up. However, he showed tremendous improvement as a run defender with the more reps and experience he received.
justin madubuike was pretty good against the run on sunday pic.twitter.com/8hE7domINK— Steven Ruiz (@theStevenRuiz) January 12, 2021
He’ll likely be in store for another year as a rotational piece, but since defensive coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale likes to keep his players both young and seasoned fresh, it will essentially be like being a part-time starter.
Wolfe is under contract through the duration of the Madubuike’s rookie deal after signing for three-year and $12 million last week. He’ll have a front-row seat for his mentee’s maturation into what he and the organization wholeheartedly believe will be a perennial Pro Bowler and All-Pro. Only time will tell but his career is off to a promising start.