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AFC honor highlights Campbell’s strong start with Ravens

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Luke Jones
Luke Jones
Luke Jones is the Ravens and Orioles beat reporter for WNST BaltimorePositive.com and is a PFWA member. His mind is consumed with useless sports knowledge, pro wrestler promos, and movie quotes, but he struggles to remember where he put his phone. Luke's favorite sports memories include being one of the thousands of kids who waited to get Cal Ripken's autograph after Orioles games in the summer of 1995, attending the Super Bowl XXXV victory parade with his father in the pouring rain, and watching the Terps advance to the Final Four at the Carrier Dome in 2002. Follow him on Twitter @BaltimoreLuke or email him at Luke@wnst.net.

A strong beginning to Calais Campbell’s first season with the Ravens finally brought a standout statistical return in the Week 6 win at Philadelphia. 

On Wednesday, the 34-year-old was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week after becoming just the ninth different Raven – and first to play primarily as an interior lineman — to register three sacks in a game in team history. The standout performance may have come against an Eagles offensive line down to one healthy starter, but Campbell was picking up the slack for a Baltimore front that was without key veterans Brandon Williams and Derek Wolfe.

In 51 defensive snaps, the 34-year-old Campbell had an additional tackle for a loss and another quarterback hit to go with the fourth three-sack performance of his 13-year career. The man frequently tasked with blocking him on Sunday, veteran guard Jamon Brown, was released by the Eagles on Wednesday, another indication of Campbell’s dominant play in the trenches.

After the 30-28 win to improve the Ravens’ record to 5-1, Campbell was quick to credit the secondary for enhancing his opportunities to make life miserable for Philadelphia quarterback Carson Wentz.

“My mindset every time is, ‘Alright, beat the guy in front of me, get to the quarterback, and get a sack,'” Campbell said. “I know with the [defensive backs] that we have, that’s a task where if we just keep rushing [and] stay alive, then good things are going to happen.”

Acquired from Jacksonville for the modest price of a fifth-round pick in March, the five-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman has been exactly what general manager Eric DeCosta envisioned as a stout run defender and an impactful figure for a Baltimore pass rush that leans heavily on the blitz and scheme to create pressure. To no surprise, Campbell has used his 6-foot-8, 300-pound frame to disrupt passing lanes with five pass breakups, but he also ranks first on the Ravens with four sacks, second with 10 quarterback hits, and sixth with 21 tackles through six games. Pro Football Focus has graded Campbell 20th among all qualified interior defenders in the NFL.

After watching him from afar for so long, head coach John Harbaugh can’t help but be impressed by the way such a massive individual consistently dominates leverage against the run. Campbell’s presence is a big reason why Baltimore ranks second in Football Outsiders’ run defense efficiency metric despite a less-than-stellar statistical output against the run on Sunday.

“He’s a very different kind of a player,” Harbaugh said. “He’s very unusual. He’s pretty special.”

In addition to being tied for second in the league with 22 sacks entering Week 7, the Ravens are second in blitz rate (46.1 percent) and third in pressure rate (29.2), according to Pro Football Reference. However, defensive coordinator Wink Martindale’s unit has benefited from playing its last three games against three of the league’s worst offensive lines, according to Football Outsiders.  

With the competition ramping up after the bye week beginning with a Nov. 1 clash with AFC North-leading Pittsburgh, the Ravens will be glad to have Campbell’s ability to disrupt at the line of scrimmage.

“We get a chance to just catch our breath, get our bodies right, and then we come out of the bye with a big one,” Campbell said. “This is the game that they say, ‘You’re not really a Raven until you play against the Steelers.’ I’m looking forward to the opportunity.”

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