OWINGS MILLS, Md. — As Terrell Suggs makes his return to Baltimore on Sunday, the Ravens rookie who broke his NCAA career sacks record has been tasked with mimicking him in practices this week.
Third-round outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson was a healthy scratch for the season-opening win in Miami, but he’s embracing his current scout-team role playing the former Ravens great who collected two sacks and a forced fumble in his Arizona debut last Sunday. The 23-year-old Ferguson views it as a learning experience as he tries to expand his bull-rushing arsenal and crack the game-day rotation.
“It’s fun. He’s got a different way of playing than me,” the Louisiana Tech product said. “I’m more of a bang-bang player. I know he’s getting older in age, so he can’t really bang like that no more. Playing like him for a day is fun. I hope I give the offense a good look. A lot of the guys on the team already know him, so they know what to expect.”
Ferguson’s rookie season hasn’t begun how he hoped as he’s behind starters Matthew Judon and Pernell McPhee and backups Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams on the depth chart. That standing coupled with the lack of a role on special teams left him on the seven-player inactive list against the Dolphins.
A concussion kept Ferguson out of the third preseason game against Philadelphia last month, but he finished with three tackles (two for a loss), two quarterback hits, and a deflected pass in the preseason with most of his playing time coming in the third and fourth quarters. Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale went out of his way to compliment Ferguson’s recent improvement last week, but that didn’t lead to a game-day activation for the opener as the Ravens went with four edge rushers.
Martindale quipped Thursday he wishes all defensive players could be active every week, but he reiterated the 6-foot-5, 270-pound outside linebacker remains on an upward trajectory.
“I believe he is. I really do,” Martindale said. “I’m really excited about Jaylon Ferguson.”
Ferguson isn’t the first Baltimore edge rusher to struggle to find his game-day footing early in his NFL career. Nagging injuries and the lack of a special-teams role kept Williams inactive for 17 games over his first two seasons, and 2009 second-round pick and eventual Super Bowl XLVII champion Paul Kruger was active for just 20 of his first 32 regular-season games before collecting 14 1/2 sacks over his final two seasons with the Ravens and signing a $40 million contract with Cleveland in 2013.
After collecting 45 sacks over his collegiate career, Ferguson said he continues to learn his craft from veterans like Judon and McPhee to be ready when his number is finally called.
“I’m just going to keep on working, keep on doing what I’m doing,” Ferguson said. “I feel like I’m working hard. There’s always room to improve. For right now, I’m just doing what I can to help the offense out giving them a look. Then, when it’s my turn up, do what I have to do to stay on the field.”
Marquise Brown still not at “full speed”
Despite a sensational debut in which he scored long touchdowns on each of his first two NFL catches, first-round wide receiver Marquise Brown says his legs weren’t firing on all cylinders in Miami.
“I wasn’t back to full speed,” Brown said. “I was talking to people telling them I didn’t know if it was the heat or something, but I wasn’t really feeling it. But I was running pretty good.”
The 5-foot-9, 170-pound receiver may have sprinted past the Miami defense with ease, but NFL Next Gen Stats suggest there could be something to the speedster’s self-critique. On his 83-yard touchdown, Brown topped out at 20.33 miles per hour, which ranked as the 14th-fastest ball carry of Week 1. For context, cornerback Marlon Humphrey said in July that Brown was clocked at over 21 miles per hour when he was still working his surgically-repaired foot back to full strength, a scary thought for opposing defenses.
Even if not quite back to full speed just yet, Brown is rapidly earning respect from his teammates after inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor jokingly told the rookie he hadn’t yet earned his full nickname when he took part in his first full practice in August, instead calling him “Holly.”
“They call me ‘Hollywood’ now,” said Brown as he laughed.
Thursday’s injury report
Cornerback Marlon Humphrey returned to practice a day after resting a back issue, easing any small concern about his availability for Sunday.
Brown remained a limited participant with a sore hip, but running back Mark Ingram (shoulder) and wide receiver Chris Moore (illness) were upgraded to full participation Thursday.
Below is the full injury report:
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Jimmy Smith (knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Marquise Brown (hip), CB Marlon Humphrey (back)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB Tyus Bowser (groin), CB Brandon Carr (non-injury), RB Mark Ingram (shoulder), WR Chris Moore (illness)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DE Jonathan Bullard (hamstring), OL Lamont Gaillard (knee)
FULL PARTICIPATION: TE Charles Clay (non-injury), WR Larry Fitzgerald (non-injury), LB Haason Reddick (knee), LB Ezekiel Turner (hand)