The Ravens’ move rush remains to be underneath building, however DC Mike Macdonald is aware of what he needs to construct


The final Penn State-Michigan soccer sport was a troublesome one for Odafe Oweh. A yr after he helped put away the Wolverines in one in every of his closing school video games, the Ravens outdoors linebacker needed to watch from afar because the Nittany Lions gave up a late lead in a narrow home loss.

Other than the entire beating-his-alma-mater factor, although, Oweh remembers liking what he noticed from the Wolverines. Under then-defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald, now in his first year overseeing the Ravens’ defense, Michigan developed one of many nation’s pass-rush duos. On one aspect was Aidan Hutchinson, the eventual No. 2 general choose in April’s NFL draft, and on the opposite was David Ojabo, a first-round talent who fell to the Ravens within the second spherical due to damage issues.

“He lets them go,” Oweh stated Friday of Michigan’s edge rushers underneath Macdonald. “That’s what I like. He lets them go. He lets them have freedom and just be who they are. So I’m looking forward to how he uses me.”

Three days into coaching camp, it’s unattainable to know simply how the Ravens will use Oweh, or how their move rush will look, or how a lot the blitzing tendencies may change from the times of Don “Wink” Martindale, as a result of Macdonald himself nonetheless doesn’t know what his unit can do. The limitations of final yr’s move rush had been obvious by season’s finish; the potential of the 2022 group remains to be unknown.

In his first news convention of camp, Macdonald, 35, recalled defensive gamers and coaches promising each other that they “wanted to be the defense that we envisioned.” But he acknowledged that these outlines are, for the second, sketched out in pencil, not pen.

“I just think it’s an evaluation of your team,” Macdonald stated. “We realized last year that our best players [at Michigan] were our edge guys, and we wanted to let them do what they do. So we’re in the process right now of figuring out who our best players are, what they do best, and then the goal will be to let them go do those things, you know? It’s not rocket science, but it’s probably easier said than done. But that’s what we’re looking to do.”

For a coordinator taking up one of many NFL’s most disappointing defenses — the injury-ravaged Ravens completed twenty eighth within the league in effectivity final season, according to Football Outsiders — Macdonald doesn’t have to fret a few teardown job. The secondary needs to be one of many NFL’s strongest and most versatile. The line of defense needs to be stout. There’s lastly continuity at inside linebacker.

Outside of huge receiver, although, no Ravens group has been extra scrutinized than the staff’s move rush. Last yr, in Martindale’s closing season as coordinator, the Ravens had a 31% blitz fee (uncharacteristically low, but nonetheless sixth highest within the NFL) however completed with simply 34 sacks in 17 video games (eleventh fewest) and a 23% strain fee (ninth lowest). In high-leverage conditions, they had been even worse: simply 12 sacks on third and fourth down, the Ravens’ fewest since 2002, with simply two over their closing eight video games.

Injuries have achieved the move rush no favors. Outside linebacker Tyus Bowser, who led the staff with seven sacks final season, remains to be recovering from a torn Achilles tendon and has not been cleared to practice. A shoulder damage restricted Oweh to particular person work over the staff’s offseason program, although he’s impressed as a full participant within the opening days of camp.

“I definitely didn’t like the way last season went, all the injuries and stuff,” outdoors linebacker Justin Houston, who re-signed earlier this month, stated Thursday. “But I’m excited for this year. I think we’ve got a lot of things going — a lot of special things going. I just pray that we stay healthy.”

With good well being, the Ravens ought to have a stable rotation on the sting. The 33-year-old Houston, who graded out because the Ravens’ high pass-rushing outdoors linebacker final season, in keeping with Pro Football Focus, is the group’s “sensei,” Oweh joked. Outside linebackers Daelin Hayes and Vince Biegel have each flashed. Ojabo, who’s nonetheless unsigned, might emerge as a situational move rusher if he recovers from his torn Achilles tendon in time to contribute.

The Ravens must also have an improved inside move rush, with rookie Travis Jones and an improved Justin Madubuike serving to to lighten fellow lineman Calais Campbell’s workload. Inside linebacker Patrick Queen, who’s poised to develop into a extra common third-down presence this season, has impressed as a blitzer in camp.

“One thing we’re challenging the guys right now throughout camp is, we’re looking for the best three, four, five guys at any given time that not only rush the best but work together the best in the pass rush,” Macdonald stated.

Macdonald’s most spectacular feat in his one yr at Michigan may’ve been the Wolverines’ pass-rush turnaround. Michigan completed with virtually 2 1/2 sacks per sport final season, up from 1 1/2 per sport in 2020, whilst its blitz fee fell from 42.5% to 30.1%, in keeping with Sports Info Solutions.

Standouts at each stage of the Ravens’ protection, from the secondary to the line of defense, have raved about Macdonald’s abilities as a instructor, how he could make the complicated appear easy. Six weeks from the season opener, Oweh’s optimistic concerning the leap the protection could make.

“Everyone is communicating differently,” Oweh stated. “We’re all fired up. I don’t want to compare anything. Obviously, at the end of the day, it’s up to the players making plays and everything, but I feel like everyone’s fired up to start something new, be communicating more, be more sound and everything. So it should be a good year.”

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