Ravens rookie DT Justin Madubuike was a “force” in his NFL debut
The Baltimore Ravens surprised some pundits on Sunday when veteran Justin Ellis and rookie Broderick Washington both popped up on the inactive list for the team’s AFC North showdown with the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium.
It meant that they would only have five defensive linemen suiting up for the game, including rookie defensive tackle Justin Madubuike who would be expected to be heavily featured in the rotation with veterans Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe.
The third-round pick out of Texas A&M made his NFL debut in Week five after being sidelined and inactive for the first games of the season as a result of a minor knee injury he suffered in his first training camp.
Madubuike played 30 snaps on defense in the Ravens 27-3 dominant win over the Bengals which was nearly half of the total snaps played by the unit as a whole on Sunday (45 percent to be exact). Even though he didn’t register one of Baltimore’s seven sacks of first overall pick Joe Burrow, he was still a disruptive “force” on the interior of the defensive line.
“He was really physical, really played hard, ran to the ball. I thought he was a force in there,” Harbaugh said.
He finished the game with one tackle and a forceful quarterback hit on Burrow. An area where he wasn’t as stout at in his impressive debut and could improve upon going forward is defending the run a little better.
“He got washed a little bit on some of the runs. He even told me that after the game in the locker room,” said Harbaugh. “He’ll be chasing improvement there, but it’s a good start for him.”
Expect for Madubuike’s involvement and snap count to only go up from here on out and once he gains more experience, he could become even more of a factor in the interior pass rush rotation under the continued tutelage of Campbell and Defensive Line Coach Joe Cullen.
Prior to the season, I boldly predicted that he would record 6.5 sacks and a dozen quarterback hits. Madubuike is still searching for his first career sack but he is 11 quarterback hits away from reaching the lofty total and could very well still achieve both despite the late start if his high snap increases.