The phrase “Here’s a guy” made famous by NBC sports broadcaster Chris Collinsworth inspired me to write a series of articles where I detail what every Baltimore Ravens’ player that is expected or is in the hunt to be on the roster brings to the table from a skillset standpoint and their 2021 individual outlook.
The third edition spotlights the big boys that make up the interior of the defensive trenches:
DE Calais Campbell -
Here’s a guy that ages like fine wine and has been enjoying some of the best and most productive seasons of his career at the age when most begin to fall off in sharp decline. When healthy, the 13-year veteran is one of the best and most versatile defensive linemen in the entire league. He defends the run just as dominantly as he rushes the passer and has the ability to line up at multiple positions including on the edge.
His first year with the Ravens didn’t quite go as planned after he was sidelined and hampered by a calf strain in the middle of the season and contracted COVID-19. Despite those setbacks, he was able to record four sacks and 10 quarterback hits in 12 games and was voted to the sixth Pro Bowl of his career.
In 2021, Campbell might be playing his last season with Ravens and in the NFL if he can ride off into the sunset with a championship. He will still be entrenched as the starting defensive end/five-technique and will be kept fresh by defensive coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale’s rotational front seven.
NT Brandon Williams -
Here’s a guy that is arguably still the best run-stuffing nose tackle in the league and is an integral part of the Ravens run defense whose presence in the interior of their defensive line is sorely missed when he has to miss any amount of time. His proclivity for occupying multiple blockers allows off-ball linebackers to make plays at and behind the line of scrimmage as well as roam sideline to sideline.
Williams was rumored to be a potential cap casualty early on in the offseason but the Ravens opted to hold onto the eight-year veteran and let him play out the final year of his contract.
In 2021, Big Baby will still be expected to be the anchor in the middle of the defense that makes running between tackles a tough task for opposing offenses. Like Campbell, he might be playing his final season in Baltimore but he likely isn’t going to retire whether he gets a ring or not so he very well could be auditioning for other teams with his play this fall.
DT Derek Wolfe -
Here’s a guy who does a lot of the dirty work underneath that allows others around him to shine. Wolfe is a beast against the run and generates some consistent interior pressure when given the opportunity and not tasked with setting up his teammates on a rush.
He was the unheralded hero not only of the Ravens defensive line but of the defense as a whole in his first season with the team last year. While both Williams and Campbell were out of commission during a rough stretch in the middle of the season it was Wolfe who led the charge and held down the fort upfront.
In 2021, he will likely start most of the games but will be in a heavy rotation with the young up-and-comer that is next on this list. He’s excellent on early downs but could see more reps in pass-rushing situations as well after being underutilized in that department last season.
In his final season with the Denver Broncos, he recorded seven sacks in 12 games and had 33 in his first eight seasons before logging just two with the Ravens in 16 games including the playoffs.
DT/DE Justin Madubuike -
Here’s a guy who is an ascending young talent and the future of the Ravens defensive line. He’s a very athletic interior defensive lineman who is stout against the run but possesses tremendous upside as a pass rusher.
After a soft tissue injury that he suffered in training camp delayed his rookie debut, Madubuike really rounded into shape once he got back on the field. By the end of the season, he was making a significant impact and playing on a much more regular basis.
In 2021, he is projected to take a leap in his second season and could even earn a starting job if not at least a heavy rotational role at defensive tackle/three-technique behind or with Wolfe. Madubuike can provide depth at defensive end/five-technique behind Campbell as well.
NT Justin Ellis -
Here’s a guy who is a solid veteran depth player and is a better run defender than he is an interior pass rusher. He’s played admirably in a rotational role and as an extra big body in the middle against the run in short-yardage situations as well as near the goal line.
Jelly proved that he couldn’t handle a heavy workload when had to play significantly more snaps when Williams was out at times last year and opposing teams were able to run the ball with high efficiency against the Ravens’ defense.
In 2021, his spot on the roster isn’t totally secure but he is currently the only tangible contingency plan at nose tackle behind Williams who’s played meaningful snaps in the league.
DT Broderick Washington -
Here’s a guy that didn’t show a lot of promise as a rookie despite ample opportunities to get extended playing time while veterans ahead of him on the depth chart and Madubuike missed multiple games with injuries and or COVID. In 2021, Washington will be competing with rookie and former undrafted free agents for what will likely be the sixth and final defensive lineman on the roster
DT Aaron Crawford -
Here’s a guy who spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad and was only active for one game but showed some promise in that contest. Crawford possesses the potential to push Washington and Ellis. He will have the opportunity in practice, as well as the preseason, to beat out any other dark horse candidates for the last spot on the defensive line depth chart.