The Ravens will hold their first full-team practice of training camp on Thursday, July 26. Each day leading up to the official start of camp, The Sun will examine several key position battles that will be decided during preseason.
The competitors: Arthur Jones, Pernell McPhee
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Breaking it down: When the Ravens lost the valuable and underrated Cory Redding to the Indianapolis Colts a couple of days into free agency, it created a void on the defensive line between rush linebacker Terrell Suggs and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. Redding had 43 tackles, 4 1/2 sacks and one fumble recovery last year and benefited from the attention given to other Ravens’ defenders.
Redding’s departure set up an opportunity for second-year defensive end Pernell McPhee, a pleasant surprise in his rookie season, to step into a bigger role. Used in passing downs last year, the fifth-round pick out of Mississippi State was second on the team with six sacks. He also led Ravens’ rookies with 23 tackles to go along with two passes defended, one forced fumble and one recovery.
While acknowledging the immediate impact that the 6-foot-3,280-pound defensive end made, Ravens’ defensive players talked excitedly about how much better McPhee will be with another offseason in the weight room and even more practice more time and experience.
But McPhee is going to have to prove that he’s more than just a pass rusher. As of now, it’s likely that he’ll share the position with third-year pro Arthur Jones, who has played defensive tackle the past two seasons.
Jones, a former fifth-round pick, has transformed his body – partly through workouts with his brother, mixed martial arts champion Jon Jones – and appears poised for a breakout season. Jones had 18 tackles in 14 games last year while serving as a reserve in the Ravens’ defensive line rotation.
The bottom line: Assuming both McPhee and Jones stay healthy and McPhee did have offseason knee surgery, this will be more of a collaboration than a competition. It’s expected that the quicker and more athletic McPhee will play on passing downs while the bigger (6-foot-3, 313 pounds) Jones will be on the field in running situations. Either way, the Ravens didn’t go out and sign an experienced defensive end, which speaks well to the faith that they have in the fairing. Beyond them, they are relatively thin at defensive end with rookies DeAngelo Tyson and Terrence Moore.