In 2006, the incredible Baltimore defense notched a franchise record 60 sacks as a unit. This year, despite the pass rush question marks, I see the Ravens topping that sack record.
I know, this squad hasn’t had the most consistent pass rush in recent years, with Matt Judon being the only real legitimate threat each play. I see that changing in a big way this year, with a big reason for that being the additions of Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe, as well as the continued growth off youngsters Tyus Bowser and Jaylen Ferguson. Totaling over 60 sacks isn’t going to happen purely from those additions, though. Judon isn’t a 15-sack guy himself, and neither Campbell nor Wolfe will tally 10. So, where are these sack record numbers coming from?
Quite simply, the QB throw-downs are going to come from all over. I’m not predicting a breakout star in the pass rush, not by any means. Rather, I’m expecting the entire defense to become relevant in generating pressure, and I view the secondary as the key to that development.
The Ravens may have the most talented – and certainly have the deepest – secondary in the NFL. Sporting two Top-100 players in Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters, a tremendous #3 in Jimmy Smith, one of the best slot corners in Tavon Young, and two sturdy safeties in Earl Thomas and Chuck Clark, it’s difficult to find a hole. All year, Baltimore should be near-impossible to throw on, as the entire secondary can hold their own one-on-one. Because of that, I think Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale will have a field day with blitzes. Hell, he normally does, but this year he really will.
This season, we could see even more unique packages than normal, as 5-6 men could be sent on a given play. Linebackers Patrick Queen, Malik Harrison and LJ Fort are likely to blitz regularly, which should generate more sacks from the position on its own. Additionally, due to the strength of Smith (who has shut down some of the league’s best wideouts when healthy), either Humphrey or Peters could be utilized in the rush. The Ravens have the potential to seriously confuse QBs from beyond the trenches, which will help the D-linemen, as well.
With pressure coming from the edges via corners and up the middle via linebackers, Judon, Campbell, Wolfe, Ferguson and Bowser (not to mention under-the-radar names like Pernell McPhee, Jihad Ward, Brandon Williams and Justin Madubuike) should be able to eat. Add it up and you can expect a ferocious attack that generates consistency through its multiple and unorthodox looks. Through that, Baltimore will set a new franchise record in sacks this season.
If you’d like a more detailed, though ballpark, breakdown of how these sack record numbers will shake out, Here you go…