With training camp beginning next week, we’ll take a look at a position group for the 2017 Ravens every day as they aim to return to the postseason for the first time since 2014.
Projected depth chart:
DE – Brent Urban, Bronson Kaufusi, Chris Wormley
NT – Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce
DT – Carl Davis, Willie Henry, Patrick Ricard
Why to be impressed: Williams is one of the best run-stopping nose tackles in the NFL, evident by Ozzie Newsome’s decision to give him a five-year, $52.5 million contract in March. Pierce was one of the surprises of the 2016 season as the undrafted rookie free agent ranked second among NFL defensive tackles in run-stop percentage, according to Pro Football Focus.
Why to be concerned: Offseason departures Timmy Jernigan and Lawrence Guy were solid contributors against the run and as interior rushers in passing situations. Urban was underrated in his 150 defensive snaps last year, but Davis, Henry, and Kaufusi were all injured and combined for zero snaps in 2016 and — along with the rookie Wormley — will be expected to make meaningful contributions.
2017 outlook: The Ravens ranked fifth in the league in holding opponents to 3.7 yards per carry last year and should remain stout against the run with Williams staying put for the long haul. There is plenty of talent in this group on paper, but the lack of overall experience is a concern entering the preseason and the Ravens need some combination of young players to emerge as impactful inside pass rushers.
Prediction: Given more extensive opportunities to get after the quarterback this season, Williams will collect a career-high five sacks.