If you watched the Ravens over the last three weeks, upgrading the pass rush seemed like it would be last on the list of priorities as the trade deadline approached.
The Ravens sacked opposing quarterbacks 16 times in the last three weeks, all wins, as they’ve made life for their opponents difficult in the pocket in the last month.
But those numbers were a bit misleading, considering the Ravens faced three teams with either poor quarterback play, poor offensive line play, or both. The Ravens knew this, and upgraded their already stacked defense and acquired pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue from the Vikings for a third and fifth round pick.
Now, the Ravens' defense — which ranks first in points allowed with 17.3 — has added another piece to what they hope is a championship puzzle. Ngakoue is a talented pass-rusher, and at just 25-years-old is still in the prime of his career.
In 69 career games, he’s tallied 42.5 sacks and 92 quarterback hits. This year, his only year in Minnesota, he’s registered five sacks in six games. He’ll join a defensive front with Matthew Judon on the opposite edge, along with Calais Campbell, Brandon Williams, Derek Wolfe and a host of others on the inside.
The Ravens have 22 sacks this season, tied for second in the league, but as said before, those numbers are a bit skewed. Now, the Ravens have two pass rushers they can trot out each series with confidence rather than the rotating cast they’ve used with Pernell McPhee, Tyus Bowser and Jaylon Ferguson.
Judon, who is under the franchise tag, has just two sacks in six games — though he leads the team in quarterbacks hits with 11. He said previously he’s confident in his play so far this season and thinks he’s been playing well, even if the stats aren’t there to back it up.
The move for Ngakoue can only help, as offensive lines now will have to make decisions about where to send their help: To Judon’s side, to Ngakoue’s side, or bunch protections to prevent collapsing pockets. Either way, the Ravens should be able to get after the quarterback as good as anyone for the remainder of the season.
An important note, too, is that with Ngakoue, they should be able to get after opposing quarterbacks by rushing just four. Meaning, for their already talented secondary with two All-Pros at cornerback in Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters, they can drop more in coverage than they once did.
Defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale loves to blitz as much as, or even more than, anyone in the league, but it will be interesting to monitor how the Ravens’ blitz rates are affected with another Pro Bowl pass-rusher in the front seven. They’ll now have the option to continue to send the house, with assuredly increased efficiency, or to ease off the pressure and keep more in coverage.
While the Ravens are 5-1, it’s easy to see the correlation to how this relates to the Chiefs.
In the Ravens' lone loss of the season, they weren’t able to get to Patrick Mahomes as he threw all over the yard in a 34-20 Ravens loss that was closer on the scoreboard than the game indicated.
Judging by the success of a few teams, like the Chargers, against the Chiefs, it’s no surprise the Ravens attempted to improve their pass rush.
Now, with one of the best secondaries in football, they’ll have a pass rush that can be equally as dominant.