Baltimore Ravens Depth Chart Analysis | Defense
Following a season where the Ravens’ defense ranked in the top 10 in rushing, passing, and takeaways, their depth chart will look different — especially on the defensive line.
Interior Defensive Line
During free agency, the Ravens restructured Brandon Williams’ contract to free up cap space. Williams is entering the final season of a five-year, $52.5 million contract he signed in 2017. He started 13 games last season and registered 33 tackles for a unit ranked eighth against the run.
Justin Ellis bolstered the Ravens’ depth chart, agreeing to a one-year deal worth $1.2 million, including $400,000 guaranteed. Ellis, 30, played in 13 games last season, starting three and finishing with 17 tackles. Ellis joined the Ravens in 2019 after a stretch of injuries with the Raiders led to his release.
Aaron Crawford went undrafted in 2020 coming out of North Carolina and remained on the Baltimore practice squad. Braxton Hoyett was a UDFA for Tennessee in 2019 — the Ravens signed him in 2020. He was released in January but re-signed to a futures contract.
Two massive names are missing from the Ravens’ depth chart: Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue. Judon is now with the New England Patriots, and Ngakoue is wearing the silver and black in Las Vegas.
Leading the edge rush will be Derek Wolfe and Calais Campbell. Wolfe is coming off a season in which he recorded 51 combined tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 1 sack, and 2 passes defensed across 14 games. He re-signed with the team on a three-year, $12 million deal.
Campbell is in the final season of his two-year contract with the Ravens. He will turn 35 on September 1, and therefore, the upcoming season could be his last on the roster. Baltimore acquired Campbell from Jacksonville for a 2020 fifth-round pick last March. Campbell started all 12 games in which he appeared for the Ravens and led all defensive linemen with 4 sacks while also registering 28 tackles and 10 QB hits.
With the Brown trade giving the Ravens an additional first-round pick, they were able to address their other need at edge. In doing so, they selected one of the most overtly athletic prospects in recent memory. The Ravens selected Jayson Oweh with pick No. 31, knowing he could be a diamond in the rough. At 6-foot-5, 257 pounds, he already has the desired size, making his 4.37 40-yard, 39.5-inch vertical, and 134-inch broad jump that much more absurd. Oweh was a first-time starter at Penn State in 2020 and could quickly fill in the starting role vacated by Judon.
The Ravens drafted Broderick Washington in the fifth round of the 2020 NFL Draft after a standout college career at Texas Tech. Washington only appeared in eight games and recorded 2 tackles. However, Washington could be facing a suspension from the NFL stemming from a March 14 arrest.
Daelin Hayes was another member of the Ravens’ draft class. Selected at pick No. 171, Hayes was a rotational player for most of his career but had a strong redshirt-senior season at Notre Dame. In nine games, he recorded 3 sacks and recorded his first career interception. Hayes got onto teams’ radars as a Senior Bowl participant and competed well while in Mobile. The Ravens hope he can be a rotational rusher on their depth chart.
Even as a rookie, LSU’s Patrick Queen proved to be one of the Ravens’ unquestioned leaders on defense. As a 16-game starter, his 106 tackles led the team. Queen was all over the field, generating 9 tackles for loss, 10 QB hits, 1 interception, and scoring a touchdown. He ended the season second amongst 2020 rookies in tackles (Kenneth Murray – 107).
Malik Harrison is a physical tackler who loves to come downhill and impose his will. As a rookie, Harrison played in all 16 games with six starts, racking up 44 tackles. Baltimore’s organization has spoken glowingly about their former third-round pick out of Ohio State and expects him to earn a more prominent role in 2021.
The Ravens brought back one of their veterans in Pernell McPhee on a one-year deal in free agency. The 32-year-old McPhee proved he had plenty of quality football left in the tank, finishing with the most tackles (34) and quarterback hits (15) he’s produced since 2015.
To retain depth at the position, the Ravens re-signed L.J. Fort to a one-year contract. Ford recorded a career-high 53 total tackles across 14 games with the Ravens last year, in addition to 2 passes defensed, 2 forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery that he returned for a score.
Since acquiring him from the Los Angeles Rams via trade in 2019, Marcus Peters has netted 91 tackles, 7 interceptions, and 19 passes deflected in 24 games as a member of the Ravens’ depth chart.
Since entering the NFL in 2015, Peters owns the most takeaways (39), interceptions (31), interception return yards (814), interception return touchdowns (6), and defensive touchdowns (7). Additionally, his 86 passes defensed stand as the second-most during that span.
Across from Peters is Marlon Humphrey, who signed a five-year, $97 million contract in 2020. Humphrey led the NFL with a Ravens franchise record of 8 forced fumbles last season. He also became the first DB to register at least 8 forced fumbles and a sack (2.5) in a single season.
Humphrey earned his second-straight Pro Bowl selection after starting all 15 games he played. He recorded 82 tackles, 11 passes defensed, and 1 interception. Together, they make arguably the best cornerback duo in the NFL.
Jimmy Smith, 32, is the eldest of the Ravens’ cornerback depth chart. Having only played for the Ravens across 11 seasons, Smith signed a one-year deal to remain with the team in 2021. Smith has 335 tackles, 3 sacks, 71 passes defended, and 14 interceptions for his career.
There is a chance the Ravens got one of the steals of the NFL Draft in Shaun Wade out of Ohio State. The combination of the pandemic, injury, and struggles on the field resulted in him slipping to the fifth round at pick No. 160. Wade transitioned to the perimeter last season and struggled to contain the opposing team’s best receivers. In three years, he tallied 91 tackles, 6 interceptions, and 18 passes defensed. With a move back into the slot a logical move, perhaps Wade could rekindle the success he saw in 2019.
Chuck Clark was second on the Ravens in tackles in 2020 with 96 (57 solo). Starting in all 16 games, Clark was a menace in the run game, consistently showing his willingness to support the front seven and get physical.
Starting alongside Clark was DeShon Elliott, who racked up 80 tackles (fourth-most on the team). Elliott was the primary benefactor following Earl Thomas’ dismissal, as it allowed him to take over the starting role after playing just 40 snaps over his first two seasons combined. It also helped that he was able to stay healthy for the first time in his NFL career.
Elliott suffered season-ending injuries in both of his first two years in the league. The Ravens expect to see him continue his development and remain atop the depth chart alongside Clark in 2021.
Signing a one-year contract in free agency, Anthony Levine returns to the Ravens’ depth chart for a 10th season after playing primarily on special teams last season.
Want more NFL news and analysis?
Be sure to follow us on Twitter (@PFN365) to stay up to date with all things around the NFL. Also, continue to visit Pro Football Network for NFL news and in-depth analysis concerning the 2021 season and beyond.