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LB Matt Judon Embracing Starting Role On Ravens Defense

October 12, 2017
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- On the Oakland Raiders' opening drive Oct. 8, quarterback EJ Manuel dropped back and floated a pass to the end zone intended for Raiders tight end Jared Cook. The pass fell incomplete, in part because of excellent coverage by Ravens linebacker Matt Judon, who ran step for step with Cook down the right sideline. 

It was plays such as that that led Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees to say Oct. 12 that Judon had "a great game in all areas" during the Ravens' 30-17 win at Oakland in Week 5. 

"I think the guy played an outstanding game … all the way across the board," Pees said.

Judon was credited with four tackles, one for a loss, and a pass breakup during the win. Through five games (three starts), Judon has 10 tackles, two passes defensed and a fumble recovery. 

A fifth-round draft pick last year out of Grand Valley State, Judon has shifted from a backup role as a rush linebacker as a rookie to a starting role as an edge-setting strong-side linebacker. He is being asked to set the edge against the run, drop in coverage and essentially be a more complete player than last year, when his role was to rush the quarterback in limited action. 

Judon is listed at 6-foot-3, 263 pounds, 12 pounds lighter than last season, and that has given him more range and quickness. 

Ravens linebackers have struggled in coverage at times this year, perhaps never more so than against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 3, when tight end Marcedes Lewis caught three touchdown passes. Lewis got behind linebacker C.J. Mosley for one touchdown, and beat rookie linebacker Tyus Bowser for a touchdown on a route similar to the one Judon covered well in Oakland. 

Judon was almost exclusively a pass rusher at Grand Valley State, where he led all college players with 21 sacks in 2015, but he said he has been comfortable dropping in coverage. 

 "I don't think a ball's been completed on me this year, so I'm feeling pretty comfortable," Judon said. "Me having said that, I'm probably going to have a target on my back, but I think the [jersey No.] 99 put a target on my back when I'm out there dropping in coverage. So welcome to anybody that throws the ball to me, and I'm just going to continue to try to make plays."

Through five games, Judon has yet to record his first sack after registering four in limited action as a rookie, but he said he has no concerns about that. 

"It'll come," he said. "I can't think about it, and I'm not going to stress over it. I'm just going to play my game and hopefully they come in bunches."

NOTEBOOK

PERRIMAN BACK, B. WILLIAMS, J. SMITH STILL SIDELINED: Wide receiver Breshad Perriman, who missed practice Oct. 11 with a knee injury, was back on the practice field Oct. 12, but defensive lineman Brandon Williams (foot) and cornerback Jimmy Smith (Achilles) remained sidelined. Williams hasn't practiced since he suffered a foot injury against the Cleveland Browns in Week 2, so it seems unlikely he will play against the Chicago Bears Oct. 15. Smith, who has been bothered by an Achilles injury for a few weeks, has missed Wednesday and Thursday practice each of the past two weeks but then practiced Friday and played Sunday. However, he said he felt his Achilles during his 47-yard fumble return touchdown at Oakland and played just seven snaps during the game. 

Others not present for the open portion of practice Oct. 12 were running back Terrance West (calf), offensive lineman Matt Skura (knee), outside linebacker Tim Williams (thigh) and defensive lineman Carl Davis (thigh). 

Follow Bo on Twitter @bsmolka    

Photo Credit: Sabina Moran/PressBox