Defensive End Improvement Key in Baltimore

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Jan 26, 2020; Orlando, Florida, USA; AFC defensive end Calais Campbell of the Jacksonville Jaguars and quarterback Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens (8) pose with trophy after the 2020 NFL Pro Bowl at Camping World Stadium. The AFC defeated the NFC 38-33. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Ravens didn’t have a lot of team needs heading into the 2020 season, but defensive end was one of them. The Ravens have always prided themselves on their defense, but last season, despite a 14-2 record, they have a pass-rush presence. Despite leading the majority of games, Baltimore only had 37 sacks last season, and 21st in the NFL.

Improving the pass rush and the wider defensive front seven was key this off-season. They let nose tackle Michael Pierce depart in free agency, and traded defensive end Chris Wormley to the Steelers. They’ve made some key acquisitions, so let’s examine the 2020 defensive end position group for the Ravens.

Defensive End Superstar: Calais Campbell

Acquiring Calais Campbell was a massive off-season move for the Ravens. Baltimore were able to steal him away from the Jacksonville Jaguars for a mere fifth-round pick. Campbell is a proven defensive end who, despite being 33, is still producing at a high level.

He only had 6.5 sacks last season, his lowest total since 2015, he’s still had 31.5 sacks in the past three seasons. His tackles were also down, but this can be at least in part be attributed to the Jaguars gutting their defense. Campbell provides veteran leadership with a high level of play and can really help this Ravens front seven.

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Despite a down year Campbell still made the Pro Bowl and won defensive MVP. Could he join Lamar Jackson by becoming a star in Baltimore. Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Derek Wolfe Hoping to Emerge in Baltimore

The Ravens initially agreed a deal with the L.A Rams defensive end Michael Brockers, however that deal fell through due to injury concerns. They quickly agreed a deal to sign Broncos pass rusher Derek Wolfe. Wolfe has been a quality depth piece on a very good Broncos defense, but has always been overshadowed by star Von Miller.

Wolfe excelled in 2019, with seven sacks from 12 games, a career high. Some will question whether his sacks are a by-product of teams keying in on Von Miller, but he can prove in Baltimore he’s a good pass rusher in his own right. He can be a key contributor in the Ravens 3-4 defense.

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Wolfe impressed in a limited role with the Broncos, but can become a star in Baltimore. Expect him to be a constant pass rush presence for the Ravens. Photo: Mark Rebilas/USA Today Sports

Jihad Ward Hoping to Earn Role in Defensive Rotation

Jihad Ward was a mid-season addition to the Ravens last season, earning a very limited role as he adjusted to their defensive scheme. He showed enough for Baltimore to keep him, re-signing him to a one-year deal in March.

Ward is a former second-round pick, but has yet to flourish in the NFL. He will earn an improved role this season, providing positional depth to the Ravens rotation. If Ward can play well he can prolong a career that has struggled so far. He should have plenty of opportunities to impress in Baltimore.

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Jihad Ward has struggled since entering the NFL in 2016. The Ravens are his third team in four years. Can he finally earn a role in this Ravens defense? Photo: John Munson/AP

Justin Madubuike The Future at Defensive End

The Ravens used a third-round pick in this years draft to select Justin Madubuike from Texas A&M. Madubuike is a young talented defensive end who injects some youth into an older position group. It’s hard to project how quickly he will adjust to the NFL, but in college he was a big presence on the A&M defensive line.

He had 5.5 sacks his junior season, and had 45 combined tackles. The Ravens are hoping he can outplay his draft ranking and become a star. He will be helped by some talented veteran players in the coming years, before hopefully emerging from their shadow in the coming years.

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Madubuike was a disruptive presence with Texas A&M, and the Ravens have high hopes he can become a star in Baltimore. Photo: Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News

Aaron Crawford Hoping to Make the Team

Baltimore has an excellent record of finding good players through undrafted free agency. A contender to make the team this year is Aaron Crawford from North Carolina. He has the size, 6ft 1 315 pounds, to be a disruptive presence on the interior defensive line.

He didn’t produce many sacks in college, but he was a tackling machine. It’s always tough for undrafted free agents to make the final 53-man roster, especially this year with a truncated off-season. He’s going to have to quickly adjust and impress if he has any chance to make it.

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Aaron Crawford was a solid contributor in North Carolina. He has the ideal size for the Ravens, but faces a tough task making the final 53-man roster. Photo: Jim Hawkins/Inside Carolina

That wraps up my look at the defensive end position for the Baltimore Ravens in 2020. What do you think of the position? Let me know in the comments section below. Keep checking the site home page here and the NFL page here for all the latest news. Also be sure to check out the site forum page here for great sports discussion. Follow the site on Twitter @OTH_Football

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