Rookie Jaylon Ferguson faces obvious comparisons to former Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs.
Ferguson finished his career at Louisiana Tech as the all-time sacks leader in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision with 45 sacks, breaking a record previously held by Suggs. But can Ferguson match Suggs’ production in the NFL? If online betting Unibet offered a wager, the odds would be long. Time will tell if the former Bulldog’s production can measure up.
At 6-feet-5, 271 pounds, Ferguson stands bigger than Suggs and is an imposing figure that should create matchup problems.
Ferguson, who was taken in the third round, is also charismatic and has some of the natural leadership skills of Suggs, who was a focal point of the Ravens’ locker room.
Suggs, a first-round pick in 2003 (10th overall) finished his career in Baltimore as the franchise’s all-time sacks leader, and Ferguson understands the challenge of filling that void.
Nonetheless, Ferguson is ready to start his own mark with the Ravens.
“It’s flattering to be compared to the great Terrell Suggs, but at the same time, he left his legacy, he left his mark,” Ferguson said. “That’s some big shoes to fill, and I’m not really trying to step in his place, because he’s been in Baltimore for way longer than I’ve been in Baltimore. I’m just coming in and getting my start on the field, doing whatever I can to help the team win.”
The Ravens prioritized finding an effective pass rusher this offseason. Suggs and Za’Darius Smith combined for 15.5 sacks last season but both left via free agency. Ferguson had 17 ½ sacks last season and new general manager Eric DeCosta was surprised that he was available with the 85th overall pick.
“You never know how these things are going to happen, so we just waited and waited and waited,” DeCosta said. “We talked to some teams about trading up, and that actually didn’t materialize. It ended up being very fortuitous for us, because he was there, and there was some elation in the draft room. Coach [Don] Martindale was very excited to get him, and it was a good feeling.”
Ferguson is also versatile and can play both inside and outside linebacker. In addition to pressuring quarterbacks, Ferguson has also been effective against the run and his size helps him swat away passes.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh was non-committal as to where Ferguson might play because it’s so early in the offseason.
The certainty is the Ravens will need to be effective putting pressure on quarterback this season, especially with a schedule that includes non-divisional games against the Patriots, Chiefs, Texans and 49ers.
In addition to Ferguson, Harbaugh said the team still has confidence that Matt Judon, along with third-year players Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams, can make a bigger impact. He hopes the addition of Ferguson allow defensive coordinator Don Martindale to be more creative with his blitz packages.
“What’s interesting is we played our base defense less than 20 percent of the time last year,” he said. “It’s the trend of the league, and people don’t really like to line up against us that way. So when we’re in our base defense, he’ll be what we call a RUSH. It moves us more into kind of an odd type of a framework in our base defense, although, we’ll play all of the different fronts. But you’ve got two edge-setting outside ‘backers for sure.
“That doesn’t discount the other guys we have, the young guys like Tyus. Tyus is still in the mix playing SAM, and it gives us another pass rusher. But we’re in our sub packages, which is our five and six defensive back packages, over 80 percent of the time, so you’re talking about defensive end. That’s where Matt is and Tyus is and Jaylon will be and the other guys are there, too. That’s kind of the way they play, and to have a big, physical guy like that that can set an edge and rush the passer is perfect for what we’re looking for.”