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Matt Judon Finds Form in Year Two

All-22 view of Matt Judon rushing the passer.
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Fresh off its third shutout of the 2017 season, the Baltimore Ravens defense looks as good as ever during the John Harbaugh era.

The secondary has been shutdown in more games than not, and the young group of inside linebackers has impressed, but perhaps most importantly, the pass rush has been in top form for most of the season.

Led by the ageless wonder Terrell Suggs, Baltimore’s front seven is tied for ninth in the NFL with 28 sacks as a team. But opposite Suggs has been another wonder, second-year edge rusher Matt Judon.

Judon was just named AFC Player of the Week for his performance in Green Bay, parts of which we’ll review below.

After a promising but sparse rookie season in 2016 in which Judon notched four sacks as a role player, the sophomore has found his form as a full-time starter in year two in replacement of the now-departed Elvis Dumervil.

Through 10 games, the 25-year-old has more sacks (five) and tackles (41 compared to 27) than last season. By all accounts, Judon is shaping up to be the real deal and well worth the fifth-round pick the Ravens spent on him during the 2016 NFL Draft.

In a young group of pass rushers set to succeed Suggs that includes Za’Darius Smith, Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams, Judon appears primed to be the best of the bunch, thanks to a diverse repertoire of pass-rushing skills and consistent run defense.

With three sacks in the last two games, Judon is heating up at the right time for Baltimore. Let’s take a look at those three sacks and how Judon is using a variety of pass-rush techniques to make an impact.

Earlier in the month against the Tennessee Titans, Judon recorded a key sack early in the game on third down.

After engaging with the left guard, Judon properly keeps his eyes in the backfield, fully aware of the speedy Marcus Mariota‘s placement in the pocket.

Judon maintains an eye on Mariota as he rips through the block and seals off the outside edge of the pocket, closing in on Mariota.

After disengaging from the block, Judon uses his closing speed to zero in on the quarterback and come up with the sack.

Plays like this by Judon show why the second-year player has so much promise. To shed a block is one thing, but to have the innate instinct to maintain sight of a mobile quarterback throughout the play while breaking off the block is another step up in the pass-rushing game.

Against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, Judon continued to impress against the pass.

Here, Judon notices the play action and sits on his side as quarterback Brett Hundley keeps the ball off the fake handoff.

As Judon locks in on the quarterback, two blockers step in to seal off #99.

Thanks to his pure power ability as a pass rusher, Judon is able to effortlessly push through the block of two blockers, maintaining an eye on Hundley throughout the play.

By the time Hundley settles in the pocket, Judon has powered through the blocks and closed in for the solo sack.

All-encompassing plays such as the last show the overall talent of Judon as a pass rusher. First, he properly did not bite on the play action, then he persevered through two blocks, then he had enough speed to close in for the sack.

Judon is far from a one-trick pony on the edge, but rather Baltimore’s most complete pass rusher after Suggs.

His second sack against Green Bay showed another side of his pass-rushing ability.

Here, Judon has a prime one-on-one opportunity with the right tackle. Off the snap, Judon engages head on as the play develops.

Shortly after locking on with the blocker, Judon simply rips through the block as pushes through inside.

The quick power move and then swim move over and around the blocker gives Judon a free path to Hundley, ultimately leading to a sack.

Judon provides plenty of promise as a pass rusher due to the wide array of ways he can get to the quarterback. He does not reply simply on speed or power to win in the passing game, but rather a balanced blend of pass-rushing tactics.

As the 35-year-old Suggs’ career winds down one day (heck, the way he is playing right now, he may still have at least two more years in the tank), Judon is properly positioned to take over as a cornerstone of Baltimore’s passing game.  

Throw in Smith, Bowser and Williams, and this is the most promising Baltimore’s pass rush situation has looked in years.

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