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Ravens News 4/15: Replenishing the Defense and more

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 25 California Bears at Washington Photo by Jesse Beals/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

AFC Roster Reset: Biggest signings/losses, burning question for each team ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft - Nick Shook

Baltimore Ravens

BURNING QUESTION: Will the Ravens replenish their defense well enough to avoid the pitfalls of 2021?

Baltimore was absolutely eviscerated by injuries in 2021, starting with the loss of its entire backfield before the season even began. That was only the beginning, of course, as the injury bug turned its sights on the defense and eventually, star quarterback Lamar Jackson. General manager Eric DeCosta spoke at length about how the Ravens can’t afford to have the same bad luck happen to them in 2022. But the question remains: How is DeCosta going to work toward preventing another nightmare? The GM told reporters the Ravens aren’t not done making moves — they re-signed Calais Campbell over the weekend — and it’s easy to expect Baltimore to add to the defense through the draft. But will that be enough?

Five Things to Know About Jermaine Johnson II - Clifton Brown

Johnson Fits the Prototypical Ravens Outside Linebacker

At 6-foot-4 with an 83-inch wingspan, Johnson has the size and versatility to make plays as both a standup pass rusher and a run-stopper who can set the edge, in the mold of Terrell Suggs, Za’Darius Smith and Matthew Judon. The Ravens were hoping to bring back Smith during free agency, but he backed out of a deal with Baltimore and signed with Minnesota. Tyus Bowser, who led the Ravens with seven sacks last season, is coming off an Achilles injury in the 2021 season finale and his recovery time remains uncertain. Finding an edge rusher remains a top defensive priority, and Johnson remains a player frequently linked to Baltimore in mock drafts. Adding Johnson would give new Ravens Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald a chess piece to move around the defense, something he did as Michigan’s defensive coordinator with versatile players.

Sizing up the 2022 Ravens roster prior to this month’s draft - Luke Jones

CORNERBACKS (6) — Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Kevon Seymour, Robert Jackson, Kevin Toliver, Iman MarshallConcern level: HIGHSkinny: A year ago, the Ravens were viewed by many as enjoying the NFL’s deepest cornerback group, but the lack of established depth behind Humphrey and Peters — both coming off season-ending injuries — couldn’t be more concerning now. While hybrid safety Brandon Stephens will likely receive a long look as the primary slot corner, Baltimore has placed too much emphasis on this position group in recent years to think DeCosta won’t be targeting a cornerback or two as early as the first round, especially with the 29-year-old Peters entering a contract year and coming off a torn ACL.

2022 NFL Draft: Cornerback prospect superlatives - Michael Renner

BEST MAN CORNER: DEREK STINGLEY JR., LSU

This one is a tight race between Stingley and Ahmad Gardner. While Gardner is better on the outside in press, Stingley has the more versatile man coverage skill set. He has the size to win at the line and the smooth hips to mirror along the entire route. His man-prowess dates back to his freshman year. Over his career, he’s allowed only 35 catches from 77 targets for 548 yards with three picks and 15 forced incompletions in man coverage.

BEST ZONE CORNER: TRENT MCDUFFIE, WASHINGTON

Not all zone is created equally, and “zone” in the NFL often ends up being man coverage for outside corners. That said, no corner in this class is better in traditional off-zone with eyes on the quarterback than McDuffie. He’s got the processing speed to anticipate routes, the instant acceleration to break on footballs and he’s one heck of a tackler, too.

MOST VERSATILE: KYLER GORDON, WASHINGTON

Gordon has the kind of easy movement skills that can fit in anywhere in a defensive back room. He lined up nearly everywhere last season, taking 55 snaps along the line of scrimmage, 66 snaps in the box, 144 in the slot and 527 out wide — all while still earning an 89.6 coverage grade. He displayed those movement skills at his pro day, recording a 3.96-second short shuttle and 6.67-second three-cone.

2022 NFL Draft: Mid-round names to know from Group of 5 leagues (and beyond) - Nick Baumgardner

Marcus Jones: CB, Houston (5-8, 174)

Houston teammate Logan Hall (DL/Edge) is a borderline first-rounder, so he’s not on this list. And we might be cheating a bit with Jones, who could be gone in the second. He’s the real deal as a returner with punts and kickoffs. His short-area quickness and burst with the ball could keep him around the league a long time. He’s small but never afraid to hit or be physical (42 PBUs, 10 picks in college). Scared of nothing as a corner despite lack of size.

DeAngelo Malone: Edge, Western Kentucky (6-3, 243)

A package of length, bend and speed, Malone has elite start-stop acceleration and the ability to dip and lower himself around tackles in a way not often seen from players his size. That said, he’s far too reliant on his elite traits and still needs a lot of work with regard to an overall pass rush plan and pretty much everything with stopping the run. But he can run in space and can get after the passer (34 sacks, 60 TFL in five seasons).

Cameron Thomas: Edge, San Diego State (6-4, 267)

A possible stand-up edge piece or a hand-in-dirt defensive end, Thomas found his way to a ton of tackles as a defensive lineman, including nose tackle, for two reasons: He’s really quick and never stops running. Thomas put up a 6.91-second 3-cone time at his pro day after missing the combine with a hamstring injury. Only Aidan Hutchinson and Travon Walker had better 3-cones in the edge department. The problem? Thomas needs to develop more play strength, as he got knocked around too much for his size at SDSU. But 21 sacks and 39 TFL since 2019 suggest he’ll find a way.