Jaylon Ferguson enjoyed the first sack of his fledgling NFL career when the rookie took down Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson in the final minute of the second quarter of the Ravens’ 41-7 rout on Sunday, calling it “amazing.”
There was some concern whether Ferguson, nicknamed “Sack Daddy” and selected by the organization in the third round of April’s draft, would break through after being inactive for the team’s first two games and then finding his footing through the next seven. But the 6-foot-5, 270-pound outside linebacker said he didn’t stress about the lack of sacks.
“I knew it was going to happen eventually, but just the fact that it didn’t happen already, I’m over that first-sack hump,” he said before Friday afternoon’s practice. “Now it’s about making more plays.”
Defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale said he never lost faith in Ferguson. But he did note that Ferguson has made strides in his conditioning and defensive knowledge since being drafted.
“Now I just see that he has more confidence in his pass rush, and he’s doing exactly what he needs to do that week in rushing the passer because you rush every quarterback differently,” Martindale said. “The mobile quarterbacks, you have to do this. The pocket quarterbacks, you have to do this. The moving quarterbacks with the boots and play action, you have to do this, and he’s executing those plans.”
As well as he played against Houston, Ferguson said the next test is to build on that performance beginning with Monday night’s game against the Los Angeles Rams.
“I feel like I kept playing better and better. Now the sky’s the limit,” he said. “Just keep going. I’ve already got one sack. Let’s see if I can do it again.”
Sam Koch fine with fewer punts
An offense that leads the NFL in scoring and rushing yards and ranks second in total yards has meant fewer opportunities for Sam Koch to do what he does best: punt. With 21 punts in 10 games, the 14-year veteran is on pace for fewer than 34 punts this season, which would smash his career low of 60 set in 2014 and matched a year ago.
“We’ve had seasons where we’ve had 90, and we’ve had seasons where we’ve had 70, and now we have seasons with 20,” he said. “It’s one of those things where you’d much rather have the offense going out there doing the things that they’re doing and us kicking field goals and stuff like that than me going out punting every fourth down. So it’s good.”
Koch did not attempt a punt Sunday, the first game he did not do so since Nov. 7, 2010. Special teams coordinator Chris Horton said that was a positive sign.
“That’s OK,” he said. “We said that before: if you’re not punting, then you’re putting points on the board, and that’s how you win football games — your offense scoring points.”
Stanley back at practice
Ronnie Stanley returned to practice Friday and was limited. The starting left tackle had sat out Thursday’s session because of an ankle injury.
Four other starters who missed Thursday participated fully on Friday. They were cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Jimmy Smith, free safety Earl Thomas III and right guard Marshal Yanda — all of whom were out for non injury-related reasons.
But nose tackle Michael Pierce was absent Friday. Pierce, who had injured his ankle in the first quarter of the team’s 49-13 victory at the Cincinnati Bengals on Nov. 10 and played a season-low three snaps, had been limited Thursday.
Defensive tackle Brandon Williams and running back Mark Ingram also did not practice Friday for non injury-related reasons after taking part in Thursday’s session.
Earning limited tags were wide receiver Chris Moore (thumb) for the second consecutive day and rookie guard Ben Powers (thumb).
Los Angeles did not practice Friday, but provided an estimation nonetheless. Starting wide receiver Brandin Cooks (concussion) would have practiced fully for the second straight day.
Starting right tackle Rob Havenstein (knee) would not have practiced for the second consecutive day, but punter Johnny Hekker (illness) would have returned after sitting out Thursday and would have been limited.
Running back Malcolm Brown (non-injury related) and cornerback Darious Williams (ankle) would not have practiced for the second straight day, while wide receiver Josh Reynolds (illness) would have returned on a limited basis.
>> Offensive coordinator Greg Roman downplayed the growing amount of attention being paid to his unit as the “it” offense.
“We’re really not aware of that perception and whatnot — if it does exist,” he said. “We’re more focused on the reality of, Hey, we’ve got a big game this week, it’s a really good defense, and we really need to go through our process that we do every week. I think whatever you do is what it is. It speaks for itself. I think everybody is aware of it as far as performance and how we can improve and what we can do to take the next step, the next logical step for us. Or how do we attack the Rams because they’re a very unique defense. That’s really where all of our energy and thought is going.”
“There is a respect,” Martindale said. “It’s a two-way street with that respect. He’s not saying anything, and I know he’s not saying anything. If he says, ‘I’m not saying anything,’ he’s not saying anything. Second of all, it’s the same thing with us defensively. We’re not going down to the offense saying, ‘Hey, this bothers him, and this bothers him, and that bothers him.’ No one thinks about that. We don’t do that.”
>> Horton complimented the Texans for sniffing out a fake field-goal attempt on fourth down-and-4 at the 37 with 2:05 left in the first quarter, but said the circumstances made the call an easy one to make.
“We watched it, and we weren’t discouraged because it was there,” he said of the play in which Koch flipped a shovel pass to tight end Mark Andrews, who was stopped for a 2-yard loss. “There are some things you really can’t replicate in practice with that play. That nose tackle did a great job of getting push, knocking our guy back, but it was there. We’re not discouraged. We’ll continue to have those plays up if we feel like there’s opportunities for them.”