Chris Wormley’s moment has arrived, a chance to start and become a bigger factor in the Ravens’ defense.
Working with the first team at defensive end throughout training camp, Wormley has reinforced the coaching staff’s belief that he is ready to replace Brent Urban, last year’s starting strong side defensive end. Once Urban signed with the Tennessee Titans during free agency, the door was open for Wormley and Zach Sieler to compete for the starting job. According to Head Coach John Harbaugh, Wormley is capitalizing on the opportunity.
“Chris Wormley, I guess the best word I could use, the most accurate word, would be very steady, very consistent,” Harbaugh said. “What you see is what you get every day, and it’s good, and that’s what you look for at that position.”
It comes as no surprise that Wormley is ready to assume a larger role. This is his third year with the Ravens, joining the team as a third-round pick in 2017 after playing for Harbaugh’s brother, Jim, at the University of Michigan. Wormley was one of the players the Ravens felt strongest about in the 2017 draft. He was a co-captain at Michigan and as a fifth-year senior, someone the younger players leaned on for advice.
“They used to call me grandpa at Michigan,” said Wormley, who will turn 26 years old in October. “I was older when I joined the Ravens than some of the rookies they’ve had in here. I look at Lamar, starting as a 21-year-old quarterback last year. Or Marlon (Humphrey), who was like 20 when he was drafted. Those guys were young. I’ve had more time to grow into a role, and I’m ready.”
To be part of the Ravens’ defensive line rotation, stopping the run must be a priority. That’s one of Wormley’s strengths. Primarily a three-technique lineman last season, Wormley played all 16 games and started six, finishing with 16 tackles and one sack while playing 38.7 percent of the defensive snaps.
The Ravens have two very talented defensive tackles who are stout against the run – Brandon Williams, who made the Pro Bowl for the first time in 2018, and Michael Pierce, who was graded the Ravens’ top defensive player last year by Pro Football Focus. Giving Wormley more snaps this season at defensive end will allow him to show his growth as a player.
He has always been imposing physically (6-foot-5, 300 pounds), someone who was already wearing size 18 cleats in high school. However, Wormley has worked hard on his agility and he reported to training camp in the best shape of his life.
“Chris, last year, made the best strides of playing the run game,” Defensive Line Coach Joe Cullen said. “He kind of got thrown into the fire, having to play three-technique, but I think he’s really made strides in his pass rush.”
The Ravens have heard the questions about their defense. How will they cope with losing talented players and leaders like C.J. Mosley, Terrell Suggs and Eric Weddle? Will their pass rush take a nosedive after losing Suggs and Za’Darius Smith? Wormley says the defense is taking those questions to heart, eager to provide the answers.
“I think our defense is going to be faster this year,” Wormley said. “We’ve got a lot of young guys ready to play, some guys still on our first contracts who are highly motivated, some veteran guys who really know the game. We know the defensive standard that’s set here. We feel we’re up to it.”
This is already a special year for Wormley and his wife, Alexis, who are expecting their first child Dec. 27, two days before the regular-season finale against the Steelers. That’s even more motivation for Wormley to lock down a starting spot, and to have his best season as a Raven.
Wormley is looking forward to the remainder of camp and preseason to build on what he has done. But he likes where the Ravens are, and where he is as a player.
“This is where I want to be, and I’m really excited about this opportunity,” Wormley said. “But I have to keep working hard every day. We’ve got plenty of work ahead of us, but it’s going to be fun.”