Ravens Can Add Pro Bowl DT to Avoid Relying on Brent Urban

Brent Urban, Kyren Williams and Geno Stone.

Getty The Baltimore Ravens can sign a Pro Bowl defensive lineman to avoid relying on veteran Brent Urban if injuries strike.

No team in the NFL is as loaded defensively as the Baltimore Ravens. Everywhere except for depth along the defensive line. General manager Eric DeCosta can solve the problem by taking Pro Bowl defensive tackle Akiem Hicks off the free-agent market and avoid relying on Brent Urban to cover for injuries.

It’s an idea from Bleacher Report’s Alex Ballentine. He noted how the Ravens “are one injury away from relying on Brent Urban to play a large share of reps. That’s not a great place to be.”

Urban’s a solid veteran with nine years experience in the pros. Yet, the 32-year-old hasn’t started a game since 2021 and he’s played just 21 percent of the Ravens’ snaps this season, per Pro Football Reference.

Urban has never been a force like Hicks, who went to a Pro Bowl as the anchor for the Chicago Bears’ stingy defense in 2018. As Ballentine put it, Hicks “probably doesn’t have the juice to play a large amount of snaps, but he could be a rotational piece on a contender.”

It’s reasonable to suppose Hicks has slowed down a little at 34. Even so, he still has one talent the Ravens need. Namely, a knack for stuffing the run.

The latter used to be a staple of Baltimore’s defenses, but the Ravens have shown some vulnerability on the ground this season.

Akiem Hicks Would Fix Potentially Fatal Flaw for Ravens

It’s not often the Ravens are generous enough to surrender 4.3 rushing yards per attempt. It’s a hidden weakness with potentially fatal consequences for a team with realistic Super Bowl ambitions.

Coordinator Mike Macdonald’s defense is flummoxing quarterbacks with disguised coverage and myriad pressure. Teams are naturally countering by handing the ball off more often, something the Los Angeles Rams had joy doing in Week 14.

Running back Kyren Williams gashed the Ravens for 114 yards on 25 carries at M&T Bank Stadium. He was helped by the Rams dominating Baltimore’s D-line, something highlighted by Matt Waldman of Football Guys.

Hicks would be a tougher load to move up front. That’s what he’s been since entering the league as a third round pick for the New Orleans Saints in the 2012 NFL draft.

The 6-foot-4, 335-pounder took his ability to absorb blockers and fill running lanes to the New England Patriots, Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Hicks batted down a pair of passes and made three run stuffs for the Bucs in 2022, per ESPN.

His best years with the Bears saw Hicks routinely make plays like this awesome stop against the Carolina Panthers in 2020, highlighted by Ballentine’s colleague Brandon Thorn.

This kind of force is missing from a Ravens defense allowing 104.2 rushing yards per game, according to Team Rankings. That’s up from the 89.8 given up per game in 2022.

Putting Hicks into the rotation on a low-cost deal would give the Ravens another big body up front. One more versed at stopping the run than the skilled pass-rushers currently manning the interior.

Brent Urban the Only Experienced Backup for Ravens

A quick look at the depth chart shows Urban as the only experienced backup along the line. He’s joined by fellow backups, second-year pro Travis Jones and 2020 fifth-round pick Broderick Washington.

There’s room for Hicks, who could spell pressure-minded starters Michael Pierce and Justin Madubuike. The latter is excelling getting to quarterbacks during what’s proving to be a banner, 11-sack campaign.

Madubuike continued his pass-rushing exploits by posting some impressive pressure numbers against the Rams, including a sack and 4 QB hits, per PFF BAL Ravens.

Pierce is also making more of an impact against the pass. He was among the most active at creating pressure from nose tackle position earlier in the season, according to PFF’s Steve Palazzolo.

Hicks can give the Ravens something different, as well as a proven commodity for the playoff run.

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