Baltimore Ravens: Young Defensive Ends Must Step Up


Earlier today, my colleague Jeremiah Sater wrote an excellent piece on the Baltimore Ravens changes on defense that will need to take place following the trade that sent Haloti Ngata to the Detroit Lions. The Ravens have done a terrific job of finding great talent along the interior defensive line in Brandon Williams, Timmy Jernigan and third-round pick Carl Davis. It will not be easy to replace Ngata, but the team has the depth to account for his loss. 

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It is the young defensive ends that could prove to be more important than the interior lineman.

Bringing back Chris Canty is one of those under the radar moves that we will look back at in December and be thankful for. Pro Football Focus gave Canty a grade of +3.9 against the run, which ranked fifteenth out of all 3-4 defensive ends. Those numbers were even better over the final four games of the regular season which Ngata missed due to his suspension. He recorded a +5.7 grade over the last four weeks, second-best of 3-4 ends. His veteran presence is going to be necessary with a defensive line that has an average 2.3 years of NFL experience.

The Ravens have two promising pass rushers on the mend in Kapron Lewis-Moore and Brent Urban. The group also includes youngsters DeAngelo Tyson and Steven Means. Lewis-Moore is coming off a devastating Achilles’ injury, while Urban is battling back from his second knee surgery. Ryan Mink of gave an update on both young lineman and both look to be ready to go when OTAs begin next week.

The Ravens secondary was the most glaring weakness last season, but you cannot blame the lack of a pass rush as the reason for the defense to get exposed. Baltimore finished with 49 sacks, tied for second-best in the NFL.

Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil accounted for 29 of those sacks. Outside linebackers generate much of the sacks in a 3-4 defense. On passing downs, the Ravens will use the traditional four lineman with Suggs and Dumervil putting their hand in the dirt. 

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Defensive ends in a 3-4 defense are not meant to put up big sacks numbers, but serve more as a space eater in run situations. The Ravens are historically known for being one of the top defenses against the run, finishing third best in the league last season. However, you expect at least some kind of production from the positon in passing situations. Tyson had one sack in 2014, while Canty was credited with half a sack. That is it from the defensive ends.

The Ravens need some improvement against the pass rush. They do not need someone like J.J. Watt (they would love that don’t get me wrong), but someone who will get after the passer when need be.

Ozzie Newsome could look outside the organization for a free agent lineman. While they are getting up there in age, Brett Keisel and Tommy Kelly are veteran options that could come in and play immediately. With Canty already on the roster, you would think they would look for a younger lineman, but there are not many options available.

John Harbaugh is going to work with what he has on his roster, and fully expect the young guys to step up.

"“The young D-linemen obviously are going to be huge for us. We’ve gotten younger there really quickly,” Harbaugh said. “There’s going to be some major competition on the defensive line.”"

This is the perfect opportunity for Lewis-Moore, Urban, Tyson or Means to step up and become the future defensive end for the Baltimore Ravens. Canty does not have a lot of tread left on his tires, and the defense needs one of the young guys to take over. If you want my opinion – kind of what you are reading for, no? – Lewis-Moore has all the makings to be a monster when healthy.

Hopefully, one of the young guys impresses at the upcoming OTAs and there is a better feeling about the position coming into the season. Football is right around the corner.

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