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Ravens Defensive Line Recap: Pre-Draft Edition

Ravens defensive linemen Calais Campbell shaking hands with John Harbaugh at Pro Bowl.

In each installment of this series, we will take a look at a Baltimore Ravens position group and review it in preparation for the 2020 NFL Draft.

Coming up next in this series will be the Ravens defensive line.

Check out the other Ravens position group recaps. Quarterback | Running Back | Wide Receiver | Tight End and Fullback | Offensive Line | Defensive Line | Linebacker | Cornerback | Safety | Special Teams

Ravens Defensive Line Recap: The Players

Brian Baldinger gives his thoughts on these new additions to the Ravens’ defensive line.

Calais Campbell 6’8″, 300 pounds, 16 games, Defensive End
2019– Started 16 games for the Jaguars. 56 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, 6.5 sacks, 25 quarterback hits, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, one touchdown.

Derek Wolfe 6’5″, 285 pounds, 12 games, Defensive End
2019- Started 12 games for the Broncos. 34 tackles, eight tackles for a loss, seven sacks, 12 quarterback hits, one forced fumble.

Jihad Ward 6’5″, 287 pounds, 14 games, Defensive End
2019– Zero starts in 2019. Seven tackles, one tackle for a loss, one sack, five quarterback hits, two fumble recoveries.

Brandon Williams 6’1″, 336 pounds, 14 games, Defensive Tackle
2019– Started 14 games for the Ravens. 34 tackles, two tackles for a loss, one sack, five quarterback hits, one fumble recovery.

Justin Ellis 6’2″, 350 pounds, four games, Defensive Tackle
2019- Zero starts in 2019. Six tackles. Only played 60 snaps all season.

Daylon Mack 6’1″, 340 pounds, one game, Defensive Tackle
2019- Zero starts in 2019. Only played 9 snaps all season.

Group Overview

With at least two new additions to this group, Ravens fans will be seeing some new faces along their defensive line in 2020. The Ravens got to work quickly in free agency and acquired Calais Campbell from the Jacksonville Jaguars for a 2020 fifth-round pick. Next, the Ravens attempted to add Michael Brockers, but the deal fell through after his physical. After the Brockers deal fell through, the Ravens chose to sign Derek Wolfe instead. This new-look Ravens’ defensive line group has a ton of experience.

The Starters

The Ravens have to feel pretty confident in their defensive line starters heading into the 2020 season. Brandon Williams, a seven-year veteran, has been a mainstay on the Ravens’ defensive line for years. One of the league’s premier run stuffers, anytime Williams misses action spells bad news for the Ravens’ run defense.

The biggest addition, both literally and figuratively, is Calais Campbell. Campbell is considered to be one of the top pass rushers in the league from the defensive line. Dubbed the “Mayor of Sacksonville” during his time in Jacksonville, Campbell has a chance at making a similar nickname for himself here in Baltimore.

Derek Wolfe has been a consistent presence along the Broncos’ defensive line his entire career. Wolfe has been listed as a starter every game he has been active for. A great run defender, Wolfe is also capable of rushing the passer, as shown with his career-high seven sacks in 2019.

The Supporting Cast

Jihad Ward was a fantastic mid-season pickup for the Ravens in 2019. The Ravens were struggling to set the edge against the run and Ward came in and made an impact immediately. The Ravens recognized his potential and gave him a one-year contract extension this offseason. However, with the addition of Wolfe and Campbell, Ward does get bumped down a little on the depth chart. Ward will still see plenty of game action, as the Ravens use their defensive linemen in rotation and he has flashed a ton of potential.

Justin Ellis is a massive body at defensive tackle. At 350 pounds, he is very difficult to move off the line and takes up a lot of space inside. Ellis has 42 starts in his career, giving the Ravens a very experienced defensive tackle behind Brandon Williams. With Michael Pierce leaving in free agency, Ellis aims to take the role as Williams’ backup that Pierce left behind. Daylon Mack is another massive defensive tackle that was a 2019 draft pick. Mack is also expected to compete with Ellis for the backup role.

Ravens defensive line's stat comparison via Pro Football Reference
Via Pro Football Reference’s Stat Comparison Finder

Draft Expectations

2020 NFL Draft image

Needs

Defensive line certainly is not one of the Ravens’ biggest needs. With that being said, the Ravens are in need of a defensive lineman that can rush the passer from the interior. All of the Ravens’ current defensive tackles are known for their run-stuffing abilities, not their pass rushing. Even with the additions of Campbell and Wolfe, the Ravens could always use another defensive end that can rush the passer as well.

What To Expect

Defensive line is a tricky one to project for the Ravens. They can seemingly get away with not addressing the group at all in the draft if they would like. With that being said, the Ravens have a long history of drafting defensive linemen, taking 13 since 2010. You should expect at least one addition to this group, with multiple undrafted free agents being added after. If a defensive lineman the Ravens covet is available when they are on the clock, they will select that player, even in the first round.

Early-round targets: Yetur Gross-Matos, A.J. Epenesa, Ross Blackrock, Marlon Davidson.
Developmental targets: Khalid Kareem, Nick Coe, Alton Robinson, Davon Hamilton.

Ravens Defensive Line Group Grade

Overall Grade: A-

Overall this is a very solid defensive line group. Calais Campbell has a lot of pass-rushing juice left and is a force in the run game. Brandon Williams is one of the best in the league at stopping the run. Derek Wolfe is fantastic against the run and can rush the passer. Jihad Ward came on very strong at the end of the year and flashed a lot of potential. Justin Ellis provides starting level depth behind Williams. Daylon Mack has the size and mean streak you want from a defensive tackle. Ravens fans can relax a little knowing this defensive line is a huge upgrade over their 2019 unit.


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Jeff Swartz MMA
Jeff Swartz is a combat sports writer and editor for Overtimeheroics.net. With a focus on Sparta Sports and Entertainment, Jeff also covers major combat sports promotions like the UFC, Bellator, ONE, World Lethwei Championship, and much more! Jeff also occasionally writes pieces about the Baltimore Ravens NFL team.
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