Thursday, September 29, 2022

Needing help on edge, Ravens finally add three-time Pro Bowl pass rusher Jason Pierre-Paul

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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.

Struggling to cobble together a sufficient outside linebacker rotation behind Odafe Oweh and Justin Houston, the Ravens are finally adding three-time Pro Bowl pass rusher Jason Pierre-Paul to the mix.

After meeting with Baltimore for the second time since early June earlier in the week, the 33-year-old has agreed to a one-year deal worth up to $5.5 million, according to NFL Network. Pierre-Paul underwent surgery for a torn rotator cuff in February after appearing in 12 games for Tampa Bay last season, finishing with 2 1/2 sacks and a career-low five quarterback hits. The 6-foot-5, 275-pound edge defender registered 30 1/2 sacks from 2018-20 with the Buccaneers and helped them win a Super Bowl after spending the first eight years of his career with the New York Giants.

According to Pro Football Focus, Pierre-Paul finished tied for 73rd in pressures, tied for 118th in pass-rush win rate, and 111th in pass-rush grade among 120 qualifying edge defenders last season, which helps explain the tepid interest in a player with his pedigree. The 2010 first-round pick out of South Florida collected 91 1/2 sacks and forced 21 fumbles in 165 career games.

Of course, the Ravens are desperate for help at outside linebacker with Tyus Bowser (Achilles tendon) on the physically unable to perform list until at least Week 5 and veteran depth pieces Vince Biegel and Steven Means having suffered season-ending Achilles injuries since the start of training camp. Rookie second-round pick David Ojabo (Achilles) is on the reserve non-football injury list and isn’t expected to be a potential option until the second half of the season.

Without depth at the position, the Ravens have been forced to use Malik Harrison as the “Sam” linebacker in their base defense while leaning on the 33-year-old Houston to play at least 49 snaps in each of the first two games, matching the number of times he did that all last season. Oweh played 68 snaps in Week 1 and 58 in last Sunday’s loss to Miami with both numbers higher than the total he played in any game during his rookie season.

That can’t continue — especially with Houston — if Baltimore wants to keep them healthy and productive for a full 17-game regular season. Houston already has two sacks this season after registering 4 1/2 in 15 games last year.

“You don’t want them out there the whole game, so you’ve got to ‘personnel it’ a little bit with the other guys that we’ve had [that] we’ve alluded to over training camp,” defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald said. “Malik and some of the other guys have stepped up in those situations. But you try to tailor it so when they’re throwing the ball, those guys are out there. And if you look at the snap counts, it’s probably about where we want it to be. But when you do get into a game where they’re throwing the ball a lot, you might have to get a little creative with it.”

With Pierre-Paul finally in the fold, the question now becomes how quickly he’ll be ready to play in a game. The 13th-year veteran hasn’t been with a team since last season and figures to need at least a little practice time to get into football shape, but the Ravens are perilously thin after Means sustained a torn Achilles tendon early in the second quarter of last Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins.

Assuming neither Pierre-Paul nor the 31-year-old Brandon Copeland — just signed to the practice squad Wednesday after not being with a team all offseason — is ready to play in Sunday’s game at New England, the Ravens would once again need to lean heavily on Oweh, Houston, and Harrison while potentially elevating undrafted rookie Jeremiah Moon from the practice squad as a fourth option at the position.

Seemingly not satisfied at inside linebacker either, the Ravens also met with former New York Giants veteran Blake Martinez earlier this week. On Wednesday, head coach John Harbaugh expressed hope that Pierre-Paul and Martinez would still become Ravens.

“I’ve already asked them once, and I’ll ask them again, ‘Are you in shape? Are you ready to go play? Are you ready to run around and help us win?’ Because that’s what I care about,” Harbaugh said. “We’re not trying to do anyone any favors here. We want guys who will come in and help us win right now. If you’re ready to do that — that’s really for any player — come on. If you’re not ready, then get in shape somewhere else, and then give us a call.”

Improving injury report

For the first time all season, the Ravens had every player on their active roster present and working during Thursday’s practice, an encouraging sign ahead of the Week 3 trip to take on the Patriots.

A day after not doing any passing and wearing a sleeve on his right arm, quarterback Lamar Jackson (elbow) was a full participant and passed the ball without any perceived difficulty — or a sleeve — during the portion of practice open to reporters. Cornerback Marlon Humphrey (groin) and wide receiver Devin Duvernay (concussion) returned to the field as limited participants after sitting out Wednesday’s workout.

It was also noteworthy that left tackle Ronnie Stanley (ankle) took part in practice for a second straight day, the first time he’s done that since making his 2022 practice debut on Labor Day. Stanley is perceived as a long shot to play against the Patriots since he’s still only practicing on a limited basis, but the former All-Pro selection increasing his activity level is an encouraging sign.

Meanwhile, the Patriots practiced without top wide receiver Jakobi Meyers (knee) and starting safety Kyle Dugger (knee) for a second straight day, further clouding their availability for Week 3.

Below is the full injury report for Thursday:

BALTIMORE
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Devin Duvernay (concussion), CB Marlon Humphrey (groin), Isaiah Likely (groin), CB Marcus Peters (knee), WR James Proche (groin), OT Ronnie Stanley (ankle), CB Brandon Stephens (quadriceps), CB Damarion Williams (ankle) 
FULL PARTICIPATION: RB J.K. Dobbins (knee), QB Lamar Jackson (right elbow), Travis Jones (knee)

NEW ENGLAND
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: S Kyle Dugger (knee), WR Jakobi Meyers (knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: S Joshuah Bledsoe (groin), S Cody Davis (calf), DL Davon Godchaux (back), LB Raekwon McMillan (thumb), CB Jalen Mills (hamstring), DL DaMarcus Mitchell (knee), S Adrian Phillips (ribs)

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