McPhee Even Better Than Harbs Expected

The rookie defensive end has shown more than just pass-rush potential.

Posted by Ryan Mink on Monday, August 15th, 2011 at 6:52 pm | Categories: Ryan Mink

The Ravens knew they were getting a high-motor defensive player when they drafted Pernell McPhee out of Mississippi State in the fifth round.

They knew he’d be solid against the run, pursue the football relentlessly and be a Ravens-type guy.

But Head Coach John Harbaugh has seen more than he bargained for.

“He’s an explosive guy,” Harbaugh said. “I thought he’d be a good run player, and he has been a good run player for us, but he has been a little bit of a better pass rusher – even in training camp – than we thought he would be.

“He is probably better – even than we expected.”

McPhee has been a frequent visitor to the Ravens’ offensive backfield in practice. Last Thursday against Philadelphia, he burst through the line and hit Eagles quarterback Mike Kafka from behind.

The ruling was originally a fumble, which cornerback Lardarius Webb returned for a 93-yard touchdown, but was overturned after review, in which referees said Kafka was in the motion of throwing.

“I think I had the fumble,” McPhee said with a smile after the game. “I knew the guy couldn’t block me because I was a step quicker than him. When they hiked it, I just shot past and went to the ball.”

McPhee showed his pass-rush potential while at Itawamba Community College, where he totaled 32.5 sacks and 73.5 tackles for loss in 18 games.

But when he stepped up the ultra-competitive SEC, McPhee’s sack numbers dropped to seven in 25 games. He had 22 tackles for loss and 20 quarterback pressures.

Strangely enough, McPhee’s finding perhaps more success getting into the backfield in the NFL, which could be a huge boon to the pressure-hungry Ravens after they recorded a franchise-low 27 last season.

McPhee partly attributes it to where the Ravens have been lining him up as a three-technique defensive end. He stood up a lot in college as a linebacker hybrid.

“These [offensive linemen] aren’t used to my type of speed at that position,” McPhee said. “It would be kind of hard for a guy whose never seen a guy with my first step line up at three-technique and shoot off the ball.”

Harbaugh praised McPhee’s powerful, explosive hands, saying he is very good with creating leverage in the pass rush.

Defensive Coordinator Chuck Pagano gushed about his Ravens-like traits. Pagano also gave McPhee bonus points for coming from Pahokee High School (same as Anquan Boldin), which is legendary for producing spectacular, tough athletes.

McPhee showed his grittiness Monday in practice, squaring off in a fight with offensive lineman Oniel Cousins.

“He is relentless. He is a violent, violent football player,” Pagano said.

McPhee has particularly been learning from Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and veteran defensive end Cory Redding.

“This guy is a great kid,” Pagano said. “He doesn’t say anything, but he just comes in here every day and is like a sponge … he’s soaking everything up. And it comes out in practice when he goes 1,000 miles per hour and is non-stop. He’s getting better every day.”

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