The Baltimore Ravens remained on the defensive Friday night, taking two outside linebackers and a 300-pound end on the second day of the NFL draft.
Addressing an insufficient pass rush that struggled in big games last season, general manager Ozzie Newsome selected sack specialist Tyus Bowser of Houston in the second round before adding Michigan lineman Chris Wormley and Tim Williams of Alabama in round three.
After taking cornerback Marlon Humphrey in the first round, the Ravens finished Day 2 with four defensive players in four picks.
“We’re just trying to get very, very strong on defense,” Newsome said. “With the opportunity that was presented to us in these first three rounds, we took advantage of it.”
Though the Ravens are intent upon improving their offense, too, coach John Harbaugh said offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg gave his blessing to the selection of Williams, which made 4-for-4 for defense.
“Marty just came over and said, ‘You’ve got to take that guy,” Harbaugh said.
Harbaugh also endorsed the defense-heavy start to the draft.
“If the best player is sitting there, staring you in the face, you take him,” the coach said. “That’s what we’ve done, and it’s turned out to be defense.”
Bowser is a 6-foot-2, 244-pounder who had 8 1/2 sacks in eight games with Houston last season. He missed five games with a fractured orbital bone, which he received in a fight with a teammate.
Baltimore’s 31 sacks last season were more than only six other teams. The Ravens had just one sack in a late-season loss to New England and didn’t get to Ben Roethlisberger once in a pivotal 31-27 defeat at Pittsburgh on Christmas Day.
After finishing 8-8 and missing the playoffs for a second straight year, Baltimore lost Zachary Orr, who retired because of a spinal condition. The Ravens also released Elvis Dumervil, who started only three games because of injuries and contributed only three sacks.
That, along with the fact that Terrell Suggs turns 35 in October, left the Ravens in desperate need of someone capable of chasing down a quarterback.
They hope Bowser — the 47th overall pick — fits the requirement. Or Wormley. Or Williams.
Bowser ranks seventh in Houston history with 21 ½ sacks. He also broke up eight passes, had two interceptions and forced two fumbles.
“The Ravens are getting a great player,” Bowser said. “Just a guy that is good on and off the field, a guy that is going to work hard.”
Wormley was selected at No. 74 overall, a pick obtained from Philadelphia in the trade for Timmy Jernigan.
The 6-foot-5, 298-pound Wormley is at his best against the run but can also hold down the edge. He had six sacks in 2016 for the Wolverines and 18 for his career.
Williams had nine sacks in 2016 and 10 ½ in 2015.
On Thursday, the Ravens fortified their defensive backfield by selecting Humphrey with the 16th overall pick.
The 6-foot-2, 197-pounder met with the Baltimore media at the team complex late Friday afternoon. He will be part of a defense that has long had a reputation for being efficient, rugged and downright nasty.
“It’s definitely a blessing to be part of that legacy and part of this team,” Humphrey said.
He isn’t the first one in his family to taste the NFL; his father, Bobby Humphrey, was a running back from 1989-92.
“Having a dad who’s been there, done that, I think has definitely been a tremendous help for me,” Humphrey said.
Humphrey had only two years of college experience and, at age 20, isn’t old enough to drink alcohol in Maryland. But the Ravens believe he’s plenty good enough to make an impact as a rookie in the NFL.
“What isn’t there to like about this guy? He’s the most physical corner, may be the most physical defensive back, in this whole draft,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said.
The Ravens used well over a dozen cornerbacks over the past few years, shuffling the deck because of injuries or ineffectiveness. By the end of last season, Baltimore had placed five cornerbacks on injured reserve.
That shouldn’t be an issue this year.
“We’ve looked out there and seen six or seven different cornerbacks starting for us over the course of a season,” Pees said. “Now we’ve got some stability back there.”