Two-hundred and sixty-six days. That was the amount of time between games for Kyle Van Noy.
Yet, the 32-year-old outside linebacker had little trouble making an impact in his first start with the Ravens last week. Just five days after his first practice with Baltimore and in his first action since last season with the Los Angeles Chargers, he had four quarterback pressures, one quarterback hit, three hurries and got his hands on two passes while playing 23 snaps.
“I don’t think a lot of people could do that, to be able to come in and make some plays right off the streets,” Van Noy said. “It’s not easy to do.”
His addition, along with that of fellow outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney in August, is a familiar trend for the Ravens.
Justin Houston. Jason Pierre-Paul. Calais Campbell. Pernell McPhee. Elvis Dumervil. Chris Canty. They are just some of the veteran pass rushers who found a home in Baltimore in recent years. Now it’s Clowney’s and Van Noy’s turn, and it couldn’t have come at a better time with David Ojabo on injured reserve with knee and ankle injuries that could be season-ending, Odafe Oweh still sidelined from a Week 2 ankle injury and Tyus Bowser still on the non-football injury list as he continues to work his way back from a knee injury that kept him out of the team’s offseason program, training camp and the start of the regular season.
While much was expected from Ojabo and Oweh in particular this season, their absence hasn’t prevented the Ravens from generating one of the NFL’s best pass rushes.
The Ravens’ 15 sacks through the first four games are the second-most in the league behind the Seattle Seahawks, Buffalo Bills and Chargers. Their 30 quarterback hits are fourth-most. Their defense has surrendered just three touchdowns.
“We have had a lot of success with that,” coach John Harbaugh said of adding veteran pass rushers. “It wasn’t something that we really planned. It was just born of necessity.”
While much of the Ravens’ success on defense this season can be attributed to inside linebackers Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen as well as safety Kyle Hamilton and cornerback Brandon Stephens as the leaders of their respective units, Clowney and Van Noy have been important.
Though Clowney has just 1 1/2 sacks, he has terrorized opposing defenses. He ranks 10th in the NFL in pass rush win rate, beating his block within 2.5 seconds 24% of the time, according to ESPN analytics and Next Gen Stats. He’s also tallied six pressures, five quarterback hits and 10 tackles, including two for loss.
Van Noy, meanwhile, brings a Super Bowl pedigree to Baltimore, having won two titles with the New England Patriots.
Last season, he had a sack in five straight games down the stretch to help spark the Chargers to their first playoff appearance since 2018. And in his first nine NFL seasons, he recorded 33 1/2 sacks, 47 tackles for loss, 10 forced fumbles and nine fumble recoveries.
“Jadeveon’s dominating pass rush,” outside linebackers coach Chuck Smith said. “He’s affecting other offenses, other teams are scheming up against up him.
“Kyle, all I did was say go get ‘em. He was plug-and-play. … He comes in instantly talking, communicating on the field, having things that only a 10-year guy can have.”
They are also offering a high return on investment.
Clowney signed a one-year deal in August worth a reported $2.5 million. The deal for Van Noy, who was signed to the practice squad before being elevated last week against the Browns, meanwhile, was just a reported $1.165 million.
And even though they are veterans, Smith, a former pass rusher who logged 58 1/2 sacks over eight seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, has imparted his knowledge on the 30-year-old Clowney in particular.
“He listens, he takes coaching,” said Smith, who added that he’s worked expanding Clowney’s toolbox with a rip move and getting him to stay in constant motion. “He’s been a wrecking ball.”
Van Noy, meanwhile, has benefited not just from playing alongside Clowney and being turned loose by Smith but from inside linebackers Smith and Queen, among others.
“They’ve helped me a lot,” Van Noy said. “Those two in particular, they’re probably playing the best linebacker … I said last year [that] it was my little brother, Fred [Warner] and [Dre] Greenlaw of the [San Francisco 49ers], that was the best duo. I think these two might be the best this year. They’re playing really, really good football. They’re making game-changing plays.
“It’s always fun to be on the field with another Kyle and play with somebody like [Kyle Hamilton], and playing with somebody like Clowney, too. I think he’s gotten … His narrative has been what it has been in the past, and he’s come here and been nothing but a team player and has played really, really good football.”
It was only one game, but the same could be said of Van Noy, and the veteran pass rushers who came before him.
Last season, Houston and Campbell combined for 15 sacks. Whether Clowney and Van Noy can have a similar impact still has to play out, but they’re off to a good start.
“These guys are highly talented guys, high draft picks, that still have a lot left in the tank,” Harbaugh said. “That’s the function of it. They still want to play, they’re still motivated to play, they wanted to be here, they believe in the defense, they fit in pretty well with the guys, and they’ve had success.
“Those two guys played really great [against Cleveland]. I thought they both played excellent. Jadeveon, he’s bringing it, and you see him getting better every single week.”