Rostered outside linebackers: Matthew Judon, Jaylon Ferguson, Tyus Bowser, Aaron Adoeye, Chauncey Rivers, Marcus Willoughby, John Daka.
If there was one position of “need” the Ravens didn’t address this offseason, it was outside linebacker.
The Ravens instead added to their interior defensive line and inside linebacking corps, but didn’t add a notable free agent or draft pick at outside linebacker. Instead, they’re set to run back the group from a year ago.
The team ranked 21st in the NFL a year ago in sacks with 37, but second in quarterback knockdowns. Essentially, the team dialed up pressure more than anyone else in the league but didn’t get home enough. Now, they're hopeful they've fixed that problem.
And if there is a trickle-down benefit to the outside linebackers of those additions elsewhere, it’s that the Ravens’ outside linebackers should have more one-on-one matchups on the outside. Notably, that includes Matthew Judon.
He finished the year with 9.5 sacks a season ago and had 33 quarterback hits — more than three times the second-place finisher on the roster. And now, he’ll play on the franchise tag in his fifth season in the league. As the team’s top pass-rusher, he’s got a lot of pressure on his back entering the 2020 season.
If Judon is able to become an upper-tier pass-rusher this season, he’ll not only boost the Ravens’ defense, he’ll cement his monster contract that appears on the horizon, whether that comes from the Ravens or another team.
But while Judon is the headliner of the Ravens’ edge rushers, in terms of success of the team this season, he might not be the most important part of the front seven. It might end up being whoever lines up across from him.
Judon has shown the ability to be a No. 1 pass-rusher in the NFL, and with the benefit of an improved defense around him, it’s reasonable to assume he can repeat his 9.5 sack performance — or better it — in 2020. That shouldn't be the worry.
Where the true test will come, however, is who lines up as the second outside linebacker on the depth chart.
Pernell McPhee had three sacks last season, but missed a majority of the season with a torn triceps. The team used rookie Jaylon Ferguson, who had 2.5 sacks, and Tyus Bowser, who had five sacks, in his absence.
With Calais Campbell, Brandon Williams and Derek Wolfe on the defensive line, it’s reasonable to assume that the Ravens’ outside linebackers will get more favorable matchups.
And if Judon and the host of other outside linebackers are able to get more one-on-one matchups, the Ravens’ could wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks in 2020.
So while the Ravens didn’t address their outside linebacker position this offseason, the additions elsewhere on the roster should provide the benefit that position group needed.
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