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Baltimore Ravens: Three Big Questions About the Defensive Line

By: Ashley Anderson

After spending the last several weeks talking about the offense, it is time to tackle (pun intended) the defense. The Baltimore Ravens have been synonymous with bruising defenses since their inception. Their most notable former players include Hall of Famers Ray Lewis and Ed Reed among countless others. This season, pundits are already saying the Ravens could be among the top in the league, but there are still questions to be answered. Here are the top questions facing the defensive line.

3.) Will Derek Wolfe notch more sacks in 2021?

When the Ravens signed Derek Wolfe to a one-year, $6 million deal in the 2020 offseason, they were looking for him to create pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Although his 2019 season was cut short by injury, he registered seven sacks with the Broncos. In a year clearly marred by the Covid-19 pandemic, that number dropped to one last season.

The numbers do not tell the full story though as Wolfe became a leader on the defensive line. When Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams missed time, Wolfe was the one who stepped up to fill the void. He earned a three-year, $12 million deal as a result. Now more comfortable in the Ravens’ defense, they are hopeful he can up his statistics.

Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale is a master at scheming up pressure. If Wolfe can tally five or more sacks, it would be a major boost for the defense as a whole. It is certainly not out of the realm of possibility as he has done so in four of his nine seasons.


2.) Will Justin Madubuike live up to the hype?

At nearly every press conference during training camp, someone has brought up the name Justin Madubuike. His teammates and coaches are positively raving about his ability and his performance so far. In fact, Madubuike is even receiving attention nationally from publications such as Sports Illustrated regarding his breakout potential.

As a second-year pro, things could go one of two ways for Madubuike. The first, and most preferable for the Ravens, is he makes good on the hype and has a monster season. Although he is not considered a starter at the moment, he will get his fair share of reps. By year’s end, he could be on the field for the lion’s share of snaps.

There is also the alternative possibility of a sophomore slump. Sometimes, players get too much attention, and it gets in their heads. The Ravens usually do well to nurture their young talent, but in the age of social media, you can be sure Madubuike has heard the chatter.

When the spotlight is on athletes, it brings intense scrutiny to everything they do. All eyes are on Madubuike this year, and it remains to be seen how he will handle it.

1.) Can Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams stay healthy?

The saying goes, “Age is nothing but a number,” and for some, that may be true. However, playing in the trenches in the NFL takes a toll on the body. Calais Campbell turns 35 on September 1st, and Brandon Williams is not far behind at 32.

Campbell was exceptionally healthy heading into the 2020 season. After missing just six games in 12 years, Campbell battled Covid-19 and a calf strain that cost him four games. Sitting eight sacks shy of the century mark, he has been outspoken about his desire for a big year. Campbell has hinted at possibly retiring after this year, so he would love nothing more than to finish strong.

On the other hand, Williams has missed time periodically throughout his career. Last season, he missed a total of three games, and his shoes were tough to fill. The Ravens’ run defense is noticeably worse without Williams manning the middle of the line.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens vs. New Orleans Saints: Preseason preview (Offense)

If one or both veterans miss time, the depth behind them is shaky at best. Baltimore is relying on Justin Ellis, and second-year man Broderick Washington to plug sizeable holes. Madubuike is set to be more of a rotational player than a backup, and the Ravens hope their aging vets can stay healthy.


Ashley is a sports fanatic to the core. Her grandmother introduced her to football as a little girl, and she's been hooked ever since. Fueled by massive amounts of caffeine and a passion for writing, Ashley showcases her fiery views on teams, players, and match-ups. Whether it's fantasy football advice or in-depth game analysis, Ashley has you covered like a lockdown cornerback.

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