Rookie defensive end Pernell McPhee has quietly been one of the Ravens’ top defensive players this season.

Seeing most of his playing time in third down situations and blitz packages, the Mississippi State product has been extremely effective, putting up 20 tackles from his position, along with six sacks. On Sunday in Cleveland, he had arguably his best game of the season-to-date, sacking Colt McCoy twice.

A fifth-round pick in April’s NFL Draft, McPhee has done well for himself this season, and is part of what could be considered a bit of a youth movement on the defense, along with the emergence of Paul Kruger, and the impressive play of Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith.

Slotting in at 6’3″ and 280 pounds, McPhee is a big guy, but I believe it’s been his football IQ that has really helped him to success this season. I’ve noticed that on certain blitzes, he guns for the quarterback, but in many cases he gives himself up as a decoy, pushing an offensive tackle towards the middle of the pocket, and letting Terrell Suggs try to exploit an outside lane. Plus, there’s always the fact that he apparently figured out the Bengals’ basic snap counts within the course of a game.

For a rookie, that is extremely impressive. Most criticisms of defensive rookies go back to the thought that the NFL is too fast, and that it’s hard to initially adjust to the speed at which plays develop. Obviously, McPhee (and Smith, for that matter) has not had much trouble with this aspect of the college-to-pro transition, and part of that could be attributed to his experience in the SEC. Mostly though, I believe that he has what it takes as a player, and Ozzie and Co. found another great prospect late in the draft that will eventually become a big part of the Ravens’ defense.


Edgar Walker is a staff writer for Baltimore Sports Report, focusing on the Ravens and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter for entertaining and informative tweets.