OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens still need a dynamic pass rusher.
Adding a playmaking outside linebacker or defensive end will be vital to the team's success in the 2021 season.
Baltimore faces a touch slate of quarterbacks over the regular-season schedule, including:
- Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh – 2020 stats: 3,803 yards, 33 TDs. 10 Ints
- Baker Mayfield, Cleveland: 3,563 yards, 26 TDs, 8 Ints
- Joe Burrow, Cincinnati: 2,688 yards, 13 TDs, 5 Ints
- Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City: 4,740 yards 38 TDs, 6 Ints
- Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay: 4,299 yards 48 TDs, 5 Ints
- Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams: 4,084 yards, 26 TDs, 10 Ints
- Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers: 4,336 yards, 31 TDs, 10 Ints
Opposing quarterbacks have already made adjustments to the Ravens' exotic schemes when it comes to the blitz. That could be a bigger challenge this season.
"For sure, this year quarterbacks got the ball out faster than ever before," Baltimore GM Eric DeCosta said. "I think going back to 2013 actually, quarterbacks threw the ball [and] got rid of the ball quicker this year. We faced a lot of teams this year that were the fastest teams at getting the ball out of their hands. Sacks were down this year in the league [and] pressures were down this year.
"I still think you have to have a pass rush, especially when you’re playing play-action-type teams – that’s a critical, critical thing. But there were a lot of teams this year that refused to be sacked, and the ball is coming out very, very fast. We saw that quite a bit."
The Ravens have a need for an edge rusher after losing several players 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
However, the free-agent market is thin, and there few players available. The Ravens hosted Justin Houston this past week but he left without a contract.
"I think what you have to do is you have to be fast on defense, you have to stop the run and you have to tackle very, very well," DeCosta said. "But you also have to have pass rush; you can’t just disregard the pass rush. You have to have a pass rush. You have to be able to get the quarterback uncomfortable. I think [defensive coordinator Don] ‘Wink’ [Martindale] does a masterful job of that, using our pass rushers and also pressure packages and things like that. So, we’ll always be a team that’s aggressive on defense."
The secondary will be the strength of the team. However, the Ravens could use depth at cornerback and need to add a free safety in the draft.
"We’ll always be a team that’s coming at you in different ways," DeCosta said. "We do love our depth in the secondary. We love where we are right now. And what we learned this year, again, is you can never have enough corners. We say it every year, but this year was a great example. We had a bunch of guys go down at different points in the season. We played with a lot of different combinations, and we were able to survive and really flourish in many ways back there, despite the different personnel packages and people playing.”