Saturday, August 6, 2022

Ravens Veteran Impressed by “Special” Rookie

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Michael Pierce has seen his share of dominant defensive backs during his six-year NFL career, which included playing with the Baltimore Ravens and Minnesota Vikings. Pierce has played with the likes of Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Matthew Judon, Earl Thomas, Marcus Peters, Harrison Smith, Danielle Hunter, Patrick Peterson and Eric Kendricks.

So it’s safe to take Pierce at his word when he sees potential greatness in a rookie. That’s exactly what Pierce saw during training camp to begin his second tour with the Ravens.

The 29-year-old returning veteran has noticed something special about a freshman who should make an instant impact for the Ravens in 2022.

Pierce praised Travis Jones after the Ravens’ practice on Saturday, July 30, per Jonas Shaffer from The Baltimore Sun:

The confident proclamation that Jones is “special” and going “nice” should delight Ravens fans. This is a franchise that has carved a niche for finding disruptive and huge trench warriors in the draft.

Pierce played with one such monster in the middle, Brandon Williams, who was selected in the third round in 2013. Jones was moved to the same stage this year and will likely be counted as a replacement for Williams, who remains a free agent.

Williams was the stalwart force at the heart of the Baltimore Front Seven. The 6’1″, 336-pounder anchored the defensive line by playing down the middle, absorbing double teams and breaking the run.

Jones is expected to do similar things and it’s a role the former UConn star is ideally suited for. Weighing in at 6’5″ and 333 pounds, Jones made it a point to obliterate running plays at their source during his time in Connecticut, a trait highlighted in this play by Connor Rogers from Bleacher Report:

A game like this means Jones should be at home with the Ravens, who continue to have the stingiest running defense in the NFL. Last season, the Ravens allowed just 3.8 yards per carry and a league-low 1,436 yards on the ground.

Linemen like Williams and the returning Calais Campbell were big reasons for the strong running defense. Campbell will welcome the arrival of special talent like Jones to make up for the loss of Williams and Derek Wolfe retirement.

Jones will be a win against the run, but his impact won’t be limited to just one phase of an offense.

For someone his size, Jones has shown surprising speed when chasing the passerby. His useful habit of pocket pressure yielded 4.5 sacks in his senior season at the collegiate level.

More than the numbers, Jones routinely made life miserable for the quarterbacks, as he did that game against Clemson, highlighted by DLineVids and NFL Scout BR:

In view of Jeff Zrebiec from the athlete Jones noted he was “a handful, especially on pass rush drills” at camp, showing the rookie he can transfer that skill to the pros. That’s good news for the Ravens, as the defense needs to put more heat on opposing passers-by after logging just 34 sacks and rushing for 4,742 yards last season, the most in the league.

It’s also true that the ability to hustle the passer and plug the run is what separates great defenders from just good ones. Campbell has it, as evidenced by his impressive 87 career sacks. Former Ravens legend Haloti Ngata also knew how to make an impact on both the run and the pass.

Obviously it’s too soon to put Jones in Campbell and Nagta’s group, but the rookie set his sights high shortly after his call-up, according to Sports Illustrated’s Ravens Country’s Todd Karpovich: “I have the spirit to go out there and everyone to dominate snap, I’m on the field.”

Judging by Pierce’s reaction to what he saw at camp, Jones is already keeping his word.

Obviously it’s too soon to put Jones in Campbell and Nagta’s group, but the rookie set his sights high shortly after his call-up, according to Sports Illustrated’s Ravens Country’s Todd Karpovich: “I have the spirit to go out there and everyone to dominate snap, I’m on the field.”



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