Madubuike having breakout season for Ravens in contract year

Photo credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

OWINGS MILLS— Ravens defensive tackle Justin Madubuike is having the best season of his young career.

One might even say he’s following in the footsteps of a player he’s tried to emulate and will face in Week 14: Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

Madubuike leads the Ravens with 10 sacks, which is the most for the team since Terrell Suggs recorded 11 in 2017.

It’s the culmination of hours of hard work for Madubuike, who is dealing with a concussion but was back at practice Wednesday and could be in the lineup against the Rams, according to coach John Harbaugh.

“In the offseason, I was going to make sure I did better than the year prior,” Madubuike said. “What I did differently was just really tune in with pass rush moves and find ways to get better with conditioning. Those are the things I felt like last year I lacked, and I wanted to definitely get better [at that] this year.” 

The Ravens selected Madubuike in the third round (71st overall) of the 2020 NFL Draft and he made an immediate impact when he finished with 19 tackles (11 solo), one sack, two tackles for a loss, and two quarterback hits in 10 games (three starts).

Each year he has gotten better and now he’s established himself as one of the best defensive tackles in the league.

“He just brings it every day, man. I know it sounds like coach talk or coach cliché, but that really does mean something,” defensive doordinator Mike Macdonald said. “You can’t go in and out where some days you bring it and some days you don’t. It doesn’t work like that. You have to keep building every day, and ‘Beeks’ is a guy that’s out here every day, and he goes 100 miles per hour every time he’s out there. I definitely think very highly of Justin and the way he plays the game. He plays like a Raven.”

Madubuike also plays a key role in the Ravens’ run defense, which is ranked 11th in the league, allowing 102.3 yards per game.

When asked if there is a particular statistic that he takes pride in, Madubuike replied:  “I would say we take pride in all of it. Obviously, stopping the run so we can make it one dimensional and then getting after it in the pass rush game, but all of it. All of it is important.” 

Madubuike, 26, is in the final year of his rookie contract and has put himself in position for a huge payday if he decides to test the free-agent market.

However, that’s not the focus.

Madubuike is just trying to help the Ravens win another Super Bowl title.

“You can make it a bigger deal than it is or you can just put your head down and work hard and I choose to pick that route,” Madubuike said. “Every year is a big year I feel like.”

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