"I definitely know each and every time I did go out there, I went out and played as fast as I could," said Ravens linebacker Tyus Bowser.
Ravens defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale might have given a hint about outside linebacker Tyus Bowser’s future Sunday when he was asked about the team’s pass rush.
“We’ll see on Sundays how good it really is,” Martindale said. “But like I said, we’ve been vanilla in our fronts, and we’ve been very vanilla in our pressures [in the preseason]. Come the season, we’ll have some things schemed up.
“I can’t wait to move ‘Phee’ [Pernell McPhee] around. Same thing with [Matthew] Judon, same thing with Tyus [Bowser]. All those guys … You saw us in our packages last year. We’ll do some different packages and turn guys loose at the quarterback.”
Bowser has become one of the guys on Martindale’s radar, which he wasn’t at the start of training camp. Back then, he was one of several young players on the roster who had to show improvement or risk losing his job.
But Bowser appears to be in a rotation at outside linebacker with McPhee and Judon. His development comes at the right time because the Ravens are in need of pass rushers, their No. 1 weakness headed into the regular season.
It’s still unknown if Bowser can have a dominant presence on defense, but the third-year player and second-round draft pick out of Houston had his best training camp and is coming off a good performance in the team’s win 26-15 over the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night.
Bowser played so well that coach John Harbaugh was glowing about him after the game, and Martindale followed up with more compliments three days later.
Maybe Bowser has turned the corner.
“Just being able to set a good edge, being stronger, working as far as my pass rush; that’s been the main thing, getting to the passer and really going out there and playing fast,” Bowser said. “In my opinion, I’ve been out there a couple of times being timid, but it’s good to go out there and have the plays out there to make yourself comfortable. That’s been really big for me.”
It’s not unusual for a player like Bowser to possibly have a “breakout” year at this time of his career. He has been in the weight room full-time for two years and has become familiar with the defensive system.
If a player is going to make it in the NFL, the turning point usually comes in his third or fourth season. Sometimes, it might happen in the fifth, but most players don’t get that luxury.
That’s a dream scenario.
“Yes, I feel different with the opportunity coming through and having the chance to go out there and show what I can do,” Bowser said about this season. “This year has definitely been exciting for me to go out there and show what I can do.
“There is always work to be done. I’m never satisfied, and that’s always been my mindset. My mindset is just to go out there each and every day and continue to work to get to that spot. I don’t think I’m there yet, but it’s always good to have stuff to work on.”
Bowser always had the physical tools. He is 6 feet 3 and weighs 242 pounds. He is thick but not too bulky. He showed potential in his first two seasons but would disappear because of injuries or erratic play.
The NFL is all about consistency.
“When you’re going out there for one or two plays, you don’t really get a solid feel for it,” Bowser said. “Preseason has really been big for me, as far as getting that pace of the game right and getting a feel for it so I can go out there and not be timid, and just go out there and play my game.”
Bowser came into training camp wanting to be more aggressive in holding the edge, which meant getting better leverage on tight ends and tackles so that running backs couldn’t get past him on the outside.
In the Ravens’ scheme, he will most likely play a lot over the tight end, but Martindale could have him line up anywhere on the line of scrimmage during passing situations.
In the past, the Ravens have even asked outside linebackers such as Terrell Suggs and Peter Boulware, so-called “pass-rushing specialists”, to occasionally cover running backs in the flat or downfield.
But Bowser’s main responsibility will be on the strong side.
“Mainly, it’s just technique and being able to have the strength to be able to hold the edge,” Bowser said. “You’re going against guys like [tackle] Orlando Brown. Those are big guys that you have to really hold and anchor down to keep the edge tight. So, [it’s about] just really working on my technique, attacking that block and being able to keep my eyes outside and make sure nothing comes outside of me.”
It’s a lot of dirty work and there isn’t much glory. That goes to the guys getting sacks. But Bowser wants to be a part of that club, too. He has five total tackles this preseason, including 1 1/2 sacks. He has two tackles for loss, and he just keeps getting better and better every week.
There is a good chance he won’t disappear this year.
“You always want to prove others wrong when they feel like they’re not confident in what you can do or within the group,” Bowser said of his detractors. “It’s like a chip on your shoulder to go out there and show those guys wrong, and also, show yourself right and prove yourself right and those who believe in you that you can go out there and rush the passer.”