After posting 31 tackles and 2.5 sacks during his rookie season in 2019, what is Ravens outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson looking to do during his second year in the NFL?
“More,” Ferguson said on Glenn Clark Radio May 20. “You ever see that old Kobe Bryant commercial with Kanye West? That’s what I want. I want more.”
The 6-foot-5, 275-pound Ferguson will have an opportunity to do just that given the shape the Ravens’ offseason took. Baltimore ranked 21st in the league with 37 sacks, but the Ravens made their deficiencies in defending the run last year the main point of emphasis for their offseason. After Derrick Henry ran 30 times for 190 yards in the divisional round of the playoffs, the Ravens acquired veteran defensive linemen Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe and drafted linebackers Patrick Queen (LSU) and Malik Harrison (Ohio State).
The edge rush group will have a similar look, however. Matthew Judon, who led the team with 9.5 sacks in 2019, was given the franchise tag. Pernell McPhee, who racked up three sacks in seven games, recently signed a one-year deal to return to Baltimore. McPhee was on his way to a solid year before a torn triceps ended his season. The Ravens will count on fourth-year man Tyus Bowser (five sacks in 2019) and Ferguson to take steps forward in 2020.
“There were some talks of maybe picking up some pass rushers, et cetera, this season or bringing back some guys,” Ferguson said. “But the road’s totally clear, and here it is, Year Two. We [didn’t take a] big pass rusher in the draft. I think we’ve got a pretty good squad right now. I’m happy. It’s real confidence for me.”
In place of traditional organized team workouts in Owings Mills, Md., Ravens players are meeting with coaches virtually and working out on their own to prepare for the 2020 season. Ferguson said that though it feels like football season is “a thousand miles away,” it’s important to stay on task. He complimented the Ravens for making the offseason program feel as normal as possible.
But assuming there is a 2020 season, it’s unclear just how normal game day will feel. Should fans not be able to attend, Ferguson said it’ll take him back to his days playing in Conference USA with Louisiana Tech, where he set the all-time FBS record (45.0) before being picked in the third round by the Ravens in the 2019 NFL Draft.
“I’m from a small school. I can hear the wind blowing through the stadium all the way through college,” Ferguson said, adding, “I feel like this going to get football back to the basic point, the basic tackling, not so much like the highlight tape everybody’s used to seeing. Everybody wants to see the 100-yard touchdown or the kickoff return. Now you’ll see fundamentals, technique, guys really locking in on their technique instead of doing everything for a show.”
Regardless of whether teams will be playing in front of stands or not, when Ferguson reports back to Owings Mills he’ll have a chance to pick the brain of Judon, a fifth-year man with 28.5 sacks to his name in his NFL career. Like Ferguson, Judon is a big pass rusher (6-foot-3, 261 pounds) from a small school (Grand Valley State) and wasn’t a top pick (fifth round).
Ferguson leaned on Judon as a rookie, and he’ll have a chance to do it again with Judon back for at least one more year. What did Judon teach him?
“There is no perfect player. You go with your strengths. You play off your strength and your weakness. He taught me how to [play] off what I’ve got,” Ferguson said. “Use my body — tall — [and] use my head when I fake instead of trying to build me into the perfect football player — this height, this strong, this weight. He taught me that I can do everything he can do.”
To hear more from Ferguson, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox