With the selection of Courtney Upshaw, the Ravens went from a dry well of edge rushers at the SAM position to a potential overflow. Upshaw adds to a group that already features Paul Kruger, Albert McClellan and Michael McaAdoo. In fact, the addition of Upshaw could give the team enough flexibility to continue featuring McClellan at ILB.
Getting back to Upshaw, the Ravens accomplished a few things with his selection. One, they were able to largely offset the loss of Jarret Johnson. The impact of Johnson — who has been the best edge setter and overall run defender at OLB in the NFL — is felt more in the running game than the passing game. Upshaw’s strength was playing the run and setting the edge at Alabama. Also, given that Kruger’s skills are highly questionable in this area, getting Upshaw will help immensely.
The other area where Upshaw helps is in the pass rush scheme. He provides more capability than Jarret Johnson, and along with Kruger, gives the Ravens a nice pair of rushers to complement Terrell Suggs on the other side. Now, the Ravens should have enough bodies to break down the pocket.
Last year, the pass rush tailed off at the end of the season because the team struggled with their depth. That shouldn’t be as big of a factor this coming season. Along with the edge rushers, the Ravens will get more playing time for Pernell McPhee and Art Jones, and feature a healthy Haloti Ngata, which will also make a difference up front.
Upshaw is the extra pass rusher that the Ravens missed at the end of the year. With his addition, defensive coordinator Dean Pees will have a nice challenge on his hands: putting together the sub-package lineups for obvious pass rush downs.