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Ozzie Newsome: Ravens 'Trying To Get Very, Very Strong On Defense'

April 29, 2017
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- After bolstering their secondary by drafting Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey in the first round, the Ravens remained singularly focused on the defense during the second day of the draft, selecting two rush linebackers and a defensive lineman with their three picks on April 28.

The Ravens selected Houston outside linebacker Tyus Bowser in the second round, and followed that by taking Michigan defensive end Chris Wormley in the third round with the No. 74 pick and Alabama linebacker Tim Williams four picks later at No. 78.

General manager Ozzie Newsome acknowledged that he would not have predicted that all of the Ravens first four picks would be defensive players players, but "that’s the way it played itself out."

"There were some offensive players that we were targeting, trying to get, and they got taken right before us or two or three picks before us," Newsome said. "We know that happens, so we shuffle the deck and move on to the next one."

Added coach John Harbaugh: "You take the best player. … That’s what we’ve done and it’s turned out to be defense and we’re all happy with that. I’ll tell you what, if it had been four offensive players, we’d have been happy with that. … This is just the way it’s gone."

Still, it has been a curious draft thus far for a team whose strength much of last season was its defense and which had already upgraded the defense with free-agent acquisitions in the secondary. 

Through the first two days of the draft, the Ravens have yet to address major needs along the offensive line and at wide receiver. The Ravens have lost receiver Steve Smith to retirement, and starting tackle Rick Wagner and reserve receiver Kamar Aiken to free agency. Center Jeremy Zuttah was traded to the 49ers. 

The pass rush was also viewed as a glaring need going into the draft after the Ravens finished with 31 sacks last year, the third-lowest total in franchise history. Elvis Dumervil was cut as a cap casualty last season, and Terrell Suggs turns 35 in October. 

The Ravens bolstered that with both Bowser (6-foot-3, 250) and Williams (6-foot-3, 245) as edge rushers, and Wormley (6-foot-5, 300) as a pass rushing force as a down lineman. The trio totaled 23 ½ sacks this past season. 

Bowser finished the 2016 season with 47 tackles and 8 ½ sacks in eight games; he missed five games with a fractured orbital bone. Considered slightly undersized as a true edge rusher, Bowser has a quick first step and also has the ability to drop in coverage, which has been a weakness of some Ravens linebackers.

Bowser played basketball at Houston for two years, and he said that quickness in defending shooting guards on the wing in basketball helped him develop as a coverage linebacker. 

He said he models his game off Suggs, and said he is "speechless" to be able to play alongside him now. 

Williams finished with 31 tackles and nine sacks this past season, but his background included a failed drug test and an arrest on a weapons charge. Those red flags dropped him into the third round, but Newsome, who has deep ties to Alabama, said he spent considerable time vetting Williams and discussing his past with him, and he obviously felt comfortable enough with what he heard.

Williams said when he met with Newsome and the Ravens he was "accountable and … responsible for everything I have been through" about his past.
"They saw that I was very truthful."

He and Humphrey join linebacker C.J. Mosley to give the Ravens 2017 defense a decidedly Alabama flavor.

Newsome said it was just a coincidence that the Ravens in this draft have selected two Alabama players and one from Michigan, which is coached by John Harbaugh’s brother, Jim.

Wormley is known as an athletic defensive end who had 40 tackles and six sacks last season. He figures to compete for the defensive end spot left open by Lawrence Guy’s free-agency move to New England. 

The Ravens are scheduled to have three more picks in the draft on the third and final day, with the No. 122 overall pick in the fourth round, the No. 159th pick in the fifth round and the No 186th pick in the sixth round. 

At some point, they will need to address the offense, and Newsome suggested that free agency and other teams roster cuts later this summer are other avenues to do that. 

But the message through the first two days of this draft has been undeniable: "We’re just trying to get very, very strong on defense," Newsome said.