How did Ravens defensive linemen stack up to rest of NFL in 2020?

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The Ravens qualified for the postseason for the third straight year and registered their first playoff victory in six years, but where did their individual players stack up across the NFL in such an unusual 2020 campaign?

Whether it’s discussing the Pro Bowl or handing out postseason honors, media and fans spend much time discussing where players rank at any given position, but very few watch every player on every team closely enough to develop opinions as informed as we’d like to believe.

Truthfully, how many times did you watch the Detroit Lions linebackers this season? What about the Las Vegas Raiders offensive line? And the Seattle Seahawks cornerbacks?

That’s why I respect the efforts of Pro Football Focus while admitting their grades are hardly the gospel of player assessment. The exhaustive effort to evaluate players across the league shouldn’t be dismissed when most of us watch one team or maybe one division closely on any kind of a regular basis.

We’ll look at each positional group on the Baltimore roster in the coming days, but below is a look at where Ravens defensive linemen stacked up across the NFL this past season followed by a positional outlook going into 2021:

Safeties
Tight ends

Calais Campbell
2020 defensive snap count: 412
PFF ranking: 27th out of 126 qualified interior defenders
2021 Week 1 age: 35
Skinny: The 6-foot-8, 300-pound lineman was named to his sixth Pro Bowl in his first year with Baltimore despite missing nearly five full games with a calf injury and a COVID-19 infection, which hindered his stamina down the stretch. His four sacks marked his lowest total since his rookie season, but Campbell was still a key part of the pass rush. Set to pay him $10 million in base salary, the Ravens hope to see Campbell’s durability return after he missed his first games since 2014.

Brandon Williams
2020 defensive snap count: 356
PFF ranking: 41st out of 126 qualified interior defenders
2021 Week 1 age: 32
Skinny: We again saw how critical Williams is to the run defense as the Ravens allowed their three highest single-game rushing totals of 2020 in games in which the veteran nose tackle was absent or exited very early. His $14.42 million salary camp number is far from ideal, but Williams took a $3 million pay cut for 2021 last fall and nearly half of his cap figure is old bonus proration anyway, decreasing the likelihood of him being cut.

Derek Wolfe
2020 defensive snap count: 624
PFF ranking: 51st out of 126 qualified interior defenders
2021 Week 1 age: 31
Skinny: With both Campbell and Williams missing substantial time, Wolfe proved even more valuable than anticipated as he led all Baltimore defensive linemen in snaps and tied his career high with 51 tackles. The organization really liked his leadership and willingness to do the dirty work in the trenches, but re-signing the pending free agent will come down to cost, especially with the Ravens having already invested a ton of money in two defensive linemen on the wrong side of 30.

Justin Ellis
2020 defensive snap count: 358
PFF ranking: 111th out of 126 qualified interior defenders
2021 Week 1 age: 30
Skinny: Seeing his highest workload since his 2017 campaign with Oakland, Ellis was mostly solid filling in for Williams at nose tackle and should be an inexpensive depth option to re-sign. However, a need to get younger and some curiosity about other options on the roster could squeeze Ellis out of the picture unless the Ravens would decide to move on from Williams to create cap space.

Justin Madubuike
2020 defensive snap count: 260
PFF ranking: 41st out of 126 qualified interior defenders
2021 Week 1 age: 23
Skinny: Given the age and money invested in this group, it’s no secret the Ravens haven’t drafted and developed a high-impact defensive lineman in several years, but Madubuike showed much potential over the second half of his rookie season. The third-round pick from Texas A&M looked more than capable of stepping into a starting role in 2021, which could impact decisions on the older options in the trenches. Madubuike becoming a standout performer would be a tremendous development with Campbell and Williams not under contract beyond 2021.

Broderick Washington
2020 defensive snap count: 161
PFF ranking: n/a
2021 Week 1 age: 24
Skinny: There was no shortage of opportunities for the rookie fifth-round pick from Texas Tech with the Ravens dealing with health concerns along the defensive line, but Washington failed to make a favorable impression and was a healthy scratch for the final four games including the playoffs. The spring and summer will be critical for the 6-foot-2, 305-pound defensive tackle to secure a 53-man roster spot and carve out a role in the game-day rotation.

Aaron Crawford
2020 defensive snap count: 21
PFF ranking: n/a
2021 Week 1 age: 23
Skinny: The undrafted rookie nose tackle from North Carolina played well in his only action against Pittsburgh in Week 12 when the roster was ravaged by COVID-19 infections, but he spent the rest of the season on the practice squad. Crawford’s development will be interesting to monitor with Williams in the final year of his contract and not getting any younger.

2021 positional outlook
Even with Wolfe and Ellis being free agents, this group remains in pretty good shape for the upcoming season since Campbell and Williams returned to play well late in 2020. Beyond 2021 is a different story, however, with Madubuike looking like the only strong bet to lock down a starting role. The Ravens no longer have a need to carry six or seven defensive linemen on the active roster with the emphasis on the passing game in today’s NFL, but this group needs more youth with upside even if Wolfe and Ellis are re-signed. According to OverTheCap.com, Baltimore ranks third in the NFL in defensive line spending with Campbell and Williams currently carrying two of the three highest cap figures on the roster. That will change after 2021, but adding at least one other young option of Madubuike’s caliber should be a goal this offseason.