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Ravens News 6/13: Restoring Pride and more

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NFL: Baltimore Ravens Minicamp Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

This Ravens Secondary Could Be Scary Good - Ryan Mink

The defense feasted in OTAs. One reporter joked Wednesday that defenders may have touched the ball as often as offensive players. While an exaggeration, it’s true that the pass defense was suffocating in most practices so far, and notable considering the lack of contact. This secondary could be scary good.

It’s great to see Marlon Humphrey practice all three weeks of OTAs and look back to form. It’s also neat to hear how he’s inspired by the 2000 Super Bowl Ravens’ defensive dominance. Baltimore’s defensive pride was hurt last year and it’s determined to bring it back.

Keep in mind, Marcus Peters isn’t back yet and Kyle Fuller didn’t join the team for OTA’s. The safety depth is well documented but the cornerback depth looks strong with the additions of fourth-round rookies Jalyn Armour-Davis and Damarion Williams. The rookies are confident and talented.

Armour-Davis’ athleticism shines. He’s fluid and fast, able to glue himself to targets. He oozes Alabama defensive prospect. Williams’ feistiness jumps out, as he even clapped back at wide receiver Rashod Bateman Wednesday. After practice, “Pepe” told Pass Game Specialist Keith Williams he can’t wait for more 1-on-1s.

Nick Boyle might not be a new man, but is leaner, happier and the knee brace is gone, too - Jeff Zrebiec

If you believe his teammates and coaches, last year’s version of Boyle, vulnerable, emotional and clearly uncomfortable, has not been present at the team facility this offseason. To a man, they talk about the transformation that the 29-year-old tight end, who is amazingly the second-longest continually tenured player on the roster behind kicker Justin Tucker, has made.

He is noticeably leaner, having lost about 15 pounds to ease some of the pressure on his surgically-repaired knee. He’s moving better and with more conviction. The bulky brace that he wore on his left leg last year is gone and Boyle hopes for good. And Boyle’s smile is back, too.

“There are days where I don’t feel as good and there are days where I feel like a million bucks,” Boyle said. “That’s still kind of working through it at this point, but it’s not like anywhere near last year and doing this and, ‘Can I go out there?’ I just feel so much better and I’m just ready to go. I’m really excited to be out there and participating.”

Should Ravens Sign Jason Pierre-Paul? - Justin Melo

It’s worth noting the 33-year-old Pierre-Paul experienced a disappointing season in 2021 by his standards, so there is a slight buyer beware element attached to this potential deal. The former South Florida standout recorded just 2.5 sacks while a shoulder injury limited him to just 12 regular-season appearances. Pierre-Paul underwent offseason surgery for a torn rotator cuff and previously called the injury “the worst of his career.”

Figuring out whether it was advancing age or the shoulder injury that limited Pierre-Paul in 2021 is for the Ravens to figure out during their visit (we trend toward the latter).

It’s easy to understand why the Ravens are doing their due diligence on Pierre-Paul while attempting to aggressively upgrade their pass-rushing unit. Baltimore recorded just 34.0 sacks throughout the 2021 campaign, which accounts for just 2.0 quarterback takedowns per 17 regular-season contests. That placed Baltimore in similar territory from a pass-rushing perspective alongside the likes of the Jacksonville Jaguars (32.0 sacks), New York Jets (33.0 sacks), and Detroit Lions (30.0 sacks). The lack of pass-rushing prowess qualified as an unfamiliar theme for an organization that has built a reputation for its historically strong defensive efforts.

Justin Houston makes more sense for the Ravens than Jason Pierre-Paul - Justin Fried

The Ravens signed Houston last July with the goal of adding some extra veteran insurance to their outside linebacker corps. While Houston didn’t light up the stat sheet, he still accomplished just that and put together a very respectable season.

The 33-year-old finished with a Pro Football Focus grade of 77.8 that ranked 19th among all edge rushers in the NFL. Despite only recording 4.5 sacks, he was likely a better pass rusher than most realize as well.

His 40 pressures were tied for 40th in the NFL and first on the Ravens while his 12 QB hits ranked 15th at his position ahead of the likes of Cameron Jordan, Von Miller, and Joey Bosa, among others.

Houston was a good player in 2021, and given his familiarity in the team’s defensive system (even with a new defensive coordinator in Mike Macdonald), re-signing him seems like a wise approach.

Six Turnaround Candidates Most Likely to Make the NFL Playoffs - Conor Orr

Baltimore Ravens

2021 record: 8–9, fourth in AFC North

Key additions: Marcus Williams, Morgan Moses, Kyle Hamilton, Tyler Linderbaum, David Ojabo, Kyle Fuller, Michael Pierce

The Ravens making the playoffs feels like the safest bet we can possibly make when talking NFL futures. In my recent 100 bold predictions column, I had the Ravens winning at least 12 games and Lamar Jackson reentering the MVP conversation. Last year, despite having to re-sign half of the guys in Madden 2004 to play running back amid a rash of injuries and despite missing Jackson for five games, the Ravens were still one of the five most successful teams on early-down success rate (via Sports Info Solutions) and the best team in the NFL in red zone success rate. Why? The system works. It’s still incredibly hard to defend. That hasn’t changed. Now, with Jackson in a contract year, a host of healthy backs and quite possibly the deepest tight end room in football, everything is set up for the Ravens to take advantage of a division in flux.