Ravens strong-side linebacker Matthew Judon doubled his sack total last year, going from four as a rookie to eight in his second season.
When asked last week after an organized team activity what was the next step for him, Judon quickly replied: “Lead the league in sacks. I’ve just got to keep progressing and be that guy out there. If there is a play needed, I’ll go make it.”
Ravens officials believe that Judon, a fifth-round pick in 2016 out of Grand Valley State, is an ascending player with a potential Pro Bowl or two in his future.
Judon and outside linebacker Terrell Suggs combined for 19 sacks and six forced fumbles last year. They remain entrenched as the Ravens’ two starters on the edge with veteran Za’Darius Smith, who had 3½ sacks last year, rushing from various spots from the defensive line.
The Ravens had 41 sacks last year, which was tied for 11th in the NFL. But the pass rush was inconsistent and disappeared at key moments late in the season.
Applying more steady pressure is one of the goals of new defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale, who has vowed to be aggressive with his calls.
It would certainly help Martindale and the Ravens’ cause if Tyus Bowser and/or Tim Williams emerge as consistent pass-rush threats in their second season.
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Bowser, a second-round pick last year, looked the part early, but he seemed to hit the rookie wall. He finished with three sacks and lost considerable playing time down the stretch.
Williams, a third-round selection last season out of Alabama, made virtually no impact as a rookie. He played in eight games, but he didn’t record a sack and he rarely flashed the explosiveness on the edge that made him one of the best pure pass rushers in the 2017 draft class.
Much more is expected from them this year.
“I don’t want to overshadow them, but I hope they take the step that I took,” Judon said. “Come in here and be players that we can count on week in and week out. Not saying that they weren’t last year, but just hopefully they can take that next step to being a pro.”
It’s tough for pass rushers to stand out in OTAs. These are noncontract practices after all and defensive players know not to go anywhere near the quarterback.
However, Ravens defensive tackle Brandon Williams said last week that he’s already seen some positive signs from Bowser and Tim Williams.
“They’re looking very good,” Williams said. “They’re coming out here, they’re playing fast. Like you said, last year they had a new playbook, and now this year they have another new playbook. So, they’re still learning, still getting better; they’re still rookies, kind of. But they’re doing well. They’re flying fast, they’re making plays and doing a lot of good things.”