With vet­er­ans in­jured, young OLBs must step up

Baltimore Sun - - RAVENS WEEK­END - Jeff.zre­biec@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/jef­fzre­biec­sun

say­ing, ‘OK, I’m just here sub­bing.’ They are ready to learn; they’re ready to play.”

The Ravens drafted Cor­rea and Judon in the sec­ond and fifth rounds, re­spec­tively, hop­ing they’d make an im­me­di­ate im­pact but also en­vi­sion­ing them as po­ten­tial re­place­ments for Suggs and Dumervil down the road. Their con­tri­bu­tions are needed now.

With Suggs (torn left bi­ceps) ex­pected to miss at least one game and Dumervil (foot) out in­def­i­nitely, the Ravens will de­pend on sec­ond-year out­side line­backer Za’Dar­ius Smith in ad­di­tion to Judon and Cor­rea to jump-start a pass rush that has been nonex­is­tent at times this sea­son. Through six games, the Ravens (3-3) have 11 sacks, and Suggs has five of them.

The Ravens do not have a sack from an out­side line­backer other than Suggs. McClel­lan, Smith, Judon and Cor­rea have com­bined for just two quar­ter­back hur­ries.

“They’ve got to play. That’s what they were brought here to do,” de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Dean Pees said Thurs­day, re­fer­ring to Judon and Smith.

“They were brought here, they were drafted here. ‘Hey, it’s your turn. It’s your time. Come play.’ You want the op­por­tu­nity, and they do. I’m thrilled with them. I like both of them. So we’re go­ing to throw them out there and we’re go­ing to see what hap­pens.”

Suggs de­liv­ered a sim­i­lar mes­sage to Smith ear­lier this week, telling him, “It’s your shot. It’s your chance to do what you do. Coach brought you here for a rea­son.”

Said Smith: “When [Suggs] goes down, we re­ally have to show up and make a name for our­selves.”

To this point, aside from Suggs, the out­side lineback­ers have strug­gled to make a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact.

Af­ter fin­ish­ing his rookie sea­son with 51⁄ sacks, in­clud­ing 31⁄ over his fi­nal three games, Smith has just one quar­ter­back hit de­spite play­ing 251 snaps. Only Suggs has played more among out­side lineback­ers. Smith strug­gled the first cou­ple of weeks with an an­kle in­jury, but he de­clined to use that as an ex­cuse.

“I can say that ev­ery tackle that I have gone up against has played their best, and I didn’t play at my best,” said Smith, a fourth-round pick in 2015. “I have gone up against a lot of great tack­les, but at the same time, I’m sup­posed to make a lot of plays and have been in po­si­tion to make a lot of big plays. I just have to fin­ish.”

Af­ter a strong pre­sea­son, Judon, who led Divi­sion II with 21 sacks last year at Grand Val­ley State, hasn’t had many op­por­tu­ni­ties to get to quar­ter­backs. He’s played in five games, to­tal­ing 79 de­fen­sive snaps.

Judon ex­pressed con­fi­dence that the sacks will come in bunches, as they of­ten do. His big­ger con­cern is get­ting more com­fort­able with the Ravens’ de­fen­sive schemes.

“With time comes com­fort, but I’m re­ally Out­side line­backer Za’Dar­ius Smith has one quar­ter­back hit in 251 snaps this sea­son. not com­fort­able right now,” Judon said. “I’m still a rookie.”

The same could be said about Cor­rea, who had seven sacks last sea­son for Boise State. The Ravens used him at out­side and in­side line­backer dur­ing train­ing camp, and Pees ac­knowl­edged that the team prob­a­bly put too much on the rookie’s plate too early.

So far, Cor­rea’s role has been mostly con­fined to spe­cial teams. He’s played only 15 de­fen­sive snaps, and he has yet to get onto the de­fen­sive stat sheet. With McClel­lan, who started the first five games at strong­side line­backer, needed to play on the in­side be­cause of mid­dle line­backer C.J. Mosley’s ham­string in­jury, Cor­rea’s role Sun­day fig­ures to ex­pand.

“I’m not re­ally com­fort­able all the way yet,” Cor­rea said. “It’s al­ways go­ing to be a learn­ing process. I think each and ev­ery day is al­ways go­ing to be a learn­ing process so you can never have the mind­set like, ‘I’m es­tab­lished. I’m OK. I know what I’m do­ing.’ There’s al­ways room to im­prove, so I’m just work­ing.”

The Ravens cer­tainly hope things start to come quicker for their young edge rush­ers. Ear­lier this sea­son, the Ravens were able to get to the quar­ter­back ei­ther with in­side pres­sure mainly from Timmy Jerni­gan, with Suggs com­ing from the out­side, or with the oc­ca­sional well-timed blitz.

In a Week 4 loss to the Oak­land Raiders, the game that started the team’s cur­rent three-game los­ing streak, the Ravens didn’t hit quar­ter­back Derek Carr a sin­gle time. A week later against the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins, they sacked Kirk Cousins just once. And in Sun­day’s de­feat at the hands of the New York Giants, the Ravens hit Eli Man­ning only twice, both times by Suggs.

“I don’t think there’s any­thing wrong with the pass rush,” Suggs said af­ter the game. “That’s what your job is, to find fault with some hole. But I think we’re do­ing a good job there, and I think we’re do­ing a good job stop­ping the run. We’re go­ing to con­tinue to work.”

Dumervil also de­fended the team’s pass rush Thurs­day, call­ing the lack of sacks “mis­lead­ing.”

“I think over­all as a de­fense, the guys are play­ing great,” he said. “So I’m just work­ing hard to try to get back and be with the guys.”

Dumervil pre­dicted it will be only a mat­ter of time be­fore Smith and Judon “cut loose” and start get­ting sacks. With­out an ac­com­plished vet­eran pass rusher in the lineup, the Ravens had bet­ter hope that time is soon.

“I think we are dif­fer­ent than the guys that they’ve had here in the past,” Judon said.

“Hope­fully, we can go out and pro­duce like the guys they’ve had here in the past.”

KEN­NETH K. LAM/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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