It didn’t take long for the Ravens’ revamped defensive line to make its presence felt.
On the Cleveland Browns’ fourth offensive play, Derek Wolfe shed a block and hammered running back Nick Chubb for no gain. On the next play, Calais Campbell got a big paw up to knock down a pass from quarterback Baker Mayfield. And on the next play, Campbell dropped into coverage and tipped a pass that was picked off by Marlon Humphrey. That turnover led to the Ravens’ first score as they rolled to a 38-6 win in the season opener at M&T Bank Stadium Sept. 13.
Wolfe and Campbell represented the Ravens’ two biggest offseason acquisitions, with Wolfe coming via free agency and Campbell via trade, as the Ravens made an improved front seven their top priority.
The players and coaches acknowledge it wasn’t a perfect opener — Browns running backs averaged 5.7 yards a carry — but head coach John Harbaugh said the next day that, “I was really happy with all of the guys in there on the D-line.”
Campbell finished with three pass breakups — equaling his total from his past two seasons — and Wolfe recorded three tackles and two of the Ravens’ six quarterback hits.
The Ravens also substituted liberally, getting contributions from all five defensive linemen who dressed for the game. (Rookie third-round pick Justin Madubuike was sidelined with a knee injury.) All five defensive linemen — six, if hybrid end/linebacker Jihad Ward is considered — played at least 20 snaps, and all had an impact.
“I thought Derek Wolfe was a force in there,” Harbaugh said at his news conference the day after the win. “Brandon Williams was a force, especially in the second half. Boy, Brandon really played well.”
Williams, who is back to his more familiar nose tackle role this year with Campbell and Wolfe flanking him up front, finished with three tackles.
The Ravens also got contributions from backup interior defensive linemen Broderick Washington and Justin Ellis. Washington, a rookie fifth-round pick who had a quiet training camp, did not get the benefit of any preseason games and then logged 28 snaps against the Browns in his first pro action.
“Broderick did a nice job,” Harbaugh said, “… He got his sea legs a little bit and really started playing well as the game went on.”
Campbell, the 13-year veteran who received the defensive game ball from Harbaugh after his Ravens debut, said he “left a lot of plays out there, but to still be able to affect the game and be able to win the way we did, that’s just a testament to our preparation.”
“We’re 1-0,” Campbell added. “And obviously, I don’t think anybody feels like they played their best football. But we’re 1-0. [There’s] a lot to look forward to.”
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