Live From Owings Mills: With Draft in Rear View, Pass Rush Must Be Priority for Ravens

April 30, 2011 | Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens concluded the 2011 NFL Draft Sunday by making five additional selections.

Indiana WR Tandon Doss (4th round-123rd overall), Texas CB Chykie Brown (5th round-164th overall), Mississippi State DE Pernell McPhee (5th round, 165th overall), Virginia Tech QB Tyrod Taylor (6th round, 180th overall), and Georgia Tech RB Anthony Allen (7th round, 225th overall) will all have the opportunity to make the roster out of Training Camp and provide depth for a team that appears to be capable of again making a run at the AFC playoffs.

Yet as the team now transitions from the end of the Draft to what we eventually hope will be the start of the offseason, they do so without having made a significant upgrade to a disappointing pass rush unit. The good news is that unlike in past years, the team was able to make their choices in the Draft knowing they would still have a way to upgrade the rush.

“I like it better” said Head Coach John Harbaugh Saturday. “You’re always looking for need. You take the best available player, but everybody knows that’s not a pure rule. Need is mixed into that whole thing.”

Harbaugh acknowledged that without taking a rusher early the Ravens can now “look at free agency and try to pay for a guy.”

The Ravens will presumably have options to pay free agent defensive ends whenever free agency does begin. Ray Edwards (Minnesota Vikings), Jason Babin (Tennessee Titans) and Mathias Kiwanuka (New York Giants) are all expected to become free agents. The Ravens could use any of that group to help improve a D-Line that finished the 2010 season with just 9.5 sacks last season and only four sacks from D-Linemen not named Haloti Ngata.

“Pass rushers are like corners” said General Manager Ozzie Newsome. “You don’t ever have enough of those guys. You need as many rushers as you can get. We tried to draft a couple of them, they got picked one pick or two picks before us.”

The wild card in the group is of course McPhee, who showed signs of being a productive rush end during two years in Starkville and was an outstanding rush end before that at Itawamba Community College. He tallied 32.5 sacks in two JUCO seasons but just seven during his two seasons at MSU.

The Ravens have been unable to produce a productive rush end since Trevor Pryce’s 13 sack season in 2006. The team had hoped for more immediate production from 2009 second round pick DE Paul Kruger, but he has produced just one sack total in his first two seasons. Cory Redding performed admirably in 2010, but got to the quarterback just three times.

The Ravens will be more hard-pressed to find OLB production in this year’s free agent class. Kansas City Chiefs LB Tamba Hali was franchised earlier in the offseason, taking the only premiere rush linebacker out of the offseason mix.

Newsome confirmed the team would make pass rush a priority for the remainder of the offseason.

“If we could get the opportunity to put ourselves in a position to get someone else, we would probably be looking at it very seriously.”

The team still hopes LB Sergio Kindle can help improve a defense that totaled just 27 sacks in 2010. Kindle missed the entire season while recovering from a fractured skull suffered in a preseason accident at a friend’s house in Austin. Kindle combined for 16 sacks between his junior and senior seasons with the Longhorns before being selected by the Ravens in the 2nd round of the 2010 NFL Draft.

Kindle has received medical clearance to begin football work, but is not guaranteed to be on the field when the Ravens open the season September 11th against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Should the Ravens not be able to upgrade their pass rush via trade/free agency, they may ultimately regret not using an early round selection on a front seven defender. The good news is that unlike in other years, the team will be able to address their needs after the Draft.

NOTES: Newsome and Harbaugh introduced their first two picks-Colorado CB Jimmy Smith and Maryland WR Torrey Smith-at a Saturday morning press conference. The presser can be heard in the Audio Vault here at……Our brief interview with Smith is available courtesy of WNSTV/YouTube below……Harbaugh told reporters the team was able to give Jimmy Smith a playbook Friday night before the lockout was put back into effect, but was not able to get a playbook to any other Draft choice……Conference calls with Brown and Taylor are also available in the Audio Vault, as is the team’s Draft wrap press conference featuring Newsome, Harbaugh, Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta and Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz