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Spotlight on: Pernell McPhee

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Spotlight on: Pernell McPhee

(One of a series of articles exploring the status of individual players on the Ravens as the 2012 season approaches.)

You could make a case for Ravens defensive end Pernell McPhee being one the biggest steals of the entire 2011 NFL draft.

Taken by the Ravens in the fifth round as the 165th overall selection, McPhee quickly played his way onto the field, primarily as a rush specialist on third downs. He piled up six sacks, finishing second on the team in that category behind Terrell Suggs.

The stat wonks at Pro Football Focus fell headlong in love with him, labeling him as the Ravens secret superstar and claiming he either sacked or pressured opposing quarterbacks on 9.2 percent of his plays, a ratio any player would take,

With the departure of veteran Cory Redding to Indianapolis as a free agent, a starting job has opened up for either McPhee or Arthur Jones, the Ravens fifth-round pick in 2010, who plays the same position. Both are expected to see plenty of playing time, but the Ravens would love to see one "break out" and establish himself as a defensive cornerstone.

Having accomplished more than Jones in less time in the league, McPhee would seem the likelier candidate for that; the only rookies who had more sacks than McPhee last season were San Francisco linebacker Aldon Smith (13), Denver linebacker Von Miller (11.5), Cleveland defensive end Jabaal Sheard (8.5) and Tennessee defensive tackle Karl Klug (7), all starters other than Klug.

As it was, McPhee finished 23rd in the NFL in sacks as a rookie in limited playing time, and he recently told the Carroll County Times that he believed he could up his total to 10 in his second season.

He experienced a setback when he had to sit out part of the spring season of OTAs and minicamps because of a minor knee injury that necessitated arthroscopic surgery. But his rehab has gone well, he said, and he expects to be ready for training camp.

Finding players who can pressure quarterbacks is going to be especially important for the Ravens in 2012 because of the absence of Terrell Suggs, out indefinitely with an Achilles injury. Suggs had 14 sacks in 2011, and if you pair that total with those of Redding and other players no longer with the team, the Ravens are missing almost half of their 48 sacks from last season.

Theyre counting on McPhee to help replace some of those missing sacks while also hoping he proves himself able to play the run and grind away in the defensive interior, perhaps as an every-down player.

It's asking a lot, but if McPhee is up to it, his status as one of the Ravens' best draft "steals" would be cemented

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Reaction: Peter King picks Ravens 12th in 2019 Power Rankings

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Reaction: Peter King picks Ravens 12th in 2019 Power Rankings

With OTAs underway, Peter King has released his 2019 NFL preseason power rankings and of the biggest surprises is the Baltimore Ravens landing at No. 12 on the list. Although stud Lamar Jackson surprised people last season, given the substandard state of their defense and the burden on Jackson to shoulder the load offensively, King may have the Ravens ranked a few spots too high. 

Let's start with the defense; it's got more holes than a slice of swiss cheese. Most notably they lost linebacker Terrell Suggs, the heart and soul of their defense for the past decade. Although past his prime, Suggs is still a productive player and they will undoubtedly miss his leadership. They released defensive back Eric Weddle, who was coming off two straight Pro-Bowl appearances. Their justification was that he's 34 and by releasing him, they could allocate the money to re-signing All-Pro linebacker C.J. Mosley. Solid reasoning, if Mosley didn't sign with the New York Jets in the offseason.

Credit must be given, however, to the four-year, $55 million contract given to former Seattle Seahawks All-Pro safety Earl Thomas. Coming off a broken leg, he is easily the biggest X-factor for this defense. If he produces like the Earl Thomas of old, it'll more than makeup for the loss of the Weddle. They'll also be getting back defensive tackle Willie Reed from injury, who's young and hungry.

Although last years' defense was one of, if not the top unit in the NFL, all anyone could manage to talk about was the dynamic offense led by rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson. Coach John Harbaugh threw caution to the wind and handed the reins to Jackson in Week 10, and the Ravens proceeded to win six of their next seven games behind a run-dominated offense.

It's a toss-up if they'll be able to replicate that success this season. On the one hand, the unconventional attack took the league by storm last year and one could argue the league just needed time to adapt to this new-look offense. On the other hand, the Ravens did add some electric new pieces to the offense to replace the losses of wide receivers Michael Crabtree and John Brown. 

They added Mark Ingram who is one of the best dual-threat running backs in the league when healthy. Their first-round pick, wide receiver Marquise Brown, is one of the fastest players Todd McShay has ever evaluated. Third-round pick wide receiver Miles Boykin was one of the 20 fastest players at the draft and fourth-round pick  Justice Hill registered the fastest 40 time for running backs at the combine. Adding young, electric talent will enhance Jackson's already stellar playmaking ability. 

At tight end, they're one of the deepest teams in the NFL, headed up by Nick Boyle and Hayden Hurst. Keep in mind, however, that this is the NFL: it all starts with the quarterback. Jackson completed passes at a 58.2% clip last season. If the Ravens are serious about building around him, he'll have to improve as a passer. 

Taking the defensive deficiencies and questions on offense into account, and 12 is too high for the preseason power rankings; 16 is more appropriate. In his article, King writes about the Ravens saying, "They could win 11. They could win six." If I had to choose one outcome I'd take the latter. 

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: OTAs Day 1

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: OTAs Day 1

Kick off your Tuesday with the latest Baltimore Ravens news including a recap of the first day of OTAs.

Player/Team Notes: 

1. Yesterday, (Monday) was the first day of the Ravens' OTAs. OTAs continue today (Tuesday) as the Ravens work on developing a new offense. Check out some of the highlights here. 

2. The Baltimore Ravens have officially announced the full 90-man roster that will be competing for an official team roster spot in OTAs this summer. 

Looking Ahead:

July 15: 4 p.m. deadline to get a long-term deal done with designated franchise tag players.

The 2019 NFL schedule is set! See the Baltimore Ravens defend the AFC North at M&T Bank Stadium this season. Get your tickets now at www.BaltimoreRavens.com/tickets.

Credit: Baltimore Ravens for news points.

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