OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson finds himself at a crossroads.
The third-year player from Louisiana Tech needs to have more production to guarantee his future with Baltimore.
The Ravens are bullish on Ferguson heading into the training camp.
"The thing I’m most excited about with Jaylon is how he’s in such great shape right now, and he really has a grasp of the playbook that he hasn’t had the last two years," outside linebackers coach Drew Wilkins said. "It’s just every year, he’s getting sharper and sharper with it, to the point now where he really is telling the young guys what to do, which is exciting to see – a guy take that leap to that point. And he’s running to the football, he’s playing with great effort. He’s really checking all the boxes right now for us.”
Ferguson, who was selected by the Ravens in their round (85th overall) of the 2019 NFL Draft, has amassed just 4.5 sacks over his career.
The Ravens selected a pair of edge rushers — Odafe Oweh and Daelin Hayes — in this year's draft and both players will be pushing for playing time.
Baltimore defensive coordinator Don Martindale is confident Ferguson is going to be more productive this season.
“He’s in great shape," Martindale said. "His mind’s in the right place. He’s working on the right things that are going to help us win.”
The opportunity is available for Ferguson to make a bigger impact because of the losses this offseason.
Matt Judon, who led the team with six sacks last season, signed a new deal with the Patriots as a free agent. Yannick Ngakoue signed with the Raiders after finishing with eight overall, but only three in nine games for Baltimore. Jihad Ward, who signed with the Jaguars, managed three sacks last season.
Ferguson broke the NCAA record for career sacks with 45, eclipsing the previous mark set by Terrell Suggs, who is Baltimore's all-time sacks leader. As a result, Ferguson instantly drew comparisons to T-Sizzle when he arrived in Baltimore.
After a slow start to his rookie season, Ferguson took advantage of more playing time when fellow linebacker Pernell McPhee suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 7. The 6-foot-5, 270-pound Ferguson finished with 2.5 sacks, 31 tackles, and nine quarterback hits in 14 games (nine starts).
Last year, he saw action in 14 games (one start), had 30 tackles (21 solo), two sacks, seven tackles for a loss, five quarterback his, one fumble recover and one pass defense.
"Love where Jaylon is at," Wilkins said. "The leadership role he’s taken on is really impressive, as well. He’s become a great communicator for us.”