xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement

Ravens’ additions of Calais Campbell, Michael Brockers reminder of how 2000 defense was built | COMMENTARY

When it was first learned that the Ravens traded for and agreed to a new two-year contract with Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell on Sunday, the first person to come to mind was Sam Adams.

The Ravens signed Adams, a standout defensive end/tackle with the Seattle Seahawks, to a a four-year, $20 million deal in April 2000. Nine months later, they won Super Bowl XXXV in Tampa, Florida, as Adams finished the season with 27 tackles, two sacks, six batted passes and seven tackles for loss and earned his first Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections.

Advertisement

That isn’t to say that Campbell will lead the Ravens to a third Super Bowl title, but he can have as much of an impact. Combined with Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman Michael Brockers, who the Ravens agreed to sign to a three-year, $30 million deal Monday night, and nose tackle Brandon Williams, the Ravens have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL.

Campbell is 33, old by NFL standards, but most league officials believe he has at least two good high-impact seasons remaining.

When the Ravens brought in Adams, they had two outstanding pass rushers on the outside in Peter Boulware and Michael McCrary, but no threat on the inside. Campbell gives the Ravens that presence.

The Ravens still need another pass rusher on the outside to complement linebacker Matthew Judon, who was recently designated the team’s franchise player, and they might eventually get production from outside linebackers Tyus Bowser and Jaylon Ferguson.

But for now, at least Campbell will make Judon better, and Judon will make Campbell better. Judon had 9½ sacks last season and Campbell had 6½ but also 25 quarterback hits. In his past three seasons, Campbell has 31½ sacks.

Now, which one do you double team? Is it Judon on the outside or Campbell up the gut? Logic dictates that you always shut off the player (Campbell) with the most direct route to the quarterback first.

Either way, the Ravens’ weak pass rush from a year ago has improved, and like Adams, Campbell is talented enough to play against the pass or the run. Campbell doesn’t have Adams’ explosive first step, but few linemen do. There hasn’t been one in the Ravens organization since Adams left after the 2001 season.

Campbell, though, is a leverage guy with good knee bend, which is a little surprising considering he is 6 feet 8 and 300 pounds. But last year, he finished with 56 tackles, including 10 for loss. His penetration and pursuit are needed for a defense that allowed an average of 93.4 rushing yards last season, including 345 in a 28-12 divisional-round loss to the Tennessee Titans.

Advertisement

The lack of versatility has been a problem for the Ravens since the departure of Adams and tackle Haloti Ngata in 2014, even though Ngata couldn’t rush like Adams. But at least the Ravens have some versatility now. They have a player who can play anywhere on the defensive line, a trait that started under former Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis and continues with the current one, Don “Wink” Martindale.

They also have a durable player who has started in 168 of 186 games during his 12 years in the league.

The Ravens won’t say anything publicly, but they probably put a full-court press on Campbell at the Pro Bowl, where their staff coached the AFC team. With 13 players selected, they probably got in the ear of Campbell, much like former Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis did when he was the team’s No. 1 salesmen at the Pro Bowl.

With Campbell, the Ravens got the heart and soul of the Jaguars defense, which is why some nicknamed him “Mayor of Sacksonville.” The Ravens got a player who has been to the Pro Bowl five times in the past six years for a two-year contract worth $27 million and a fifth-round draft pick.

Brockers, 29, is as much of a specimen as Campbell. At 6-5 and 305 pounds, he has consistently been one of the best run-stoppers in the league, collecting more than 50 tackles in each of his past three seasons.

When the Ravens scrimmaged the Rams two years ago for several days in Baltimore, Brockers was one of the most impressive players on the field. He and Campbell will start over Chris Wormley, who has proven to be more of a stop-gap player than a starter in his four years with the team.

Advertisement

With Campbell and Brockers on the roster, the Ravens can work on other areas, like finding a return specialist and wide receiver. The top concern, though, should be signing a big, physical inside linebacker.

Adams had Lewis behind him. Campbell and Brockers don’t have that kind of support. But they just made the Ravens a lot better.

A good inside linebacker could make them special.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement