Yes, the Ravens outlasted an inferior opponent to maintain their leg up in the AFC wild-card race. That has to be the headline.
But this was not an encouraging effort from a team that has generally rounded into form over the past six weeks. The Ravens talk about making a deep run if they get into the postseason, but that won’t happen if they make as many mental and physical mistakes as they did against the Indianapolis Colts.
“Not the best-played game by us,” coach John Harbaugh said.
The Ravens mishandled a succession of key plays that could have…
During his second year of a three-year contract, Sheard didn’t put up world-beating numbers in the stat sheet, but he was a consistent force setting the edge and rushing the passer.
Starting all 16 games for the Colts, Sheard 5.5 sacks, 14 tackles for loss and four batted passes.
As the Colts transitioned the defensive alignment from a 3-4 to a 4-3 under new coordinator Matt Eberflus, Sheard easily converted from an outside linebacker to a defensive end, which appeared to be his more natural position.
The Colts pass rush was inconsistent throughout the season. They would have their strong games but then string together a few quiet ones. Sheard seemed to be a consistent threat from the edge, though, even if he wasn’t racking up sack totals.
Sheard was the ninth-ranked edge defender among 15 in this year’s list. He ranked behind Cameron Jordan (6), Calais Campbell (9), Von Miller (10), DeMarcus Lawrence (12), Melvin Ingram (24), Brandon Graham (27), Joey Bosa (28) and Khalil Mack (31). That’s a pretty great group in which to be included.
As PFF mentioned, Sheard stood out in a down year overall for the Colts defense. Without his 4.2 quarterback pressures per game, their pass rush would’ve been non-existent. He only had 5.5 actual sacks on the year, but pressure can make things almost as chaotic for an opposing passing game. Overall, Sheard also had 52 tackles (4 for loss), 2 forced fumbles and 3 pass breakups.
The Colts signed Sheard as a free agent last offseason while trying to find young, yet experienced players to add to the front seven. You could say that Sheard exceeded expectations. Although he didn’t post double-digit sacks, he provided consistent pressure and was as durable as ever. He played in all 16 games, which reflects his career durability. He’s only missed seven games in seven seasons.
In 2018, we’ll see if Sheard’s production changes at all. The Colts are moving to a 4-3 defense under coordinator Matt Eberflus from their former 3-4 hybrid under Chuck Pagano. Sheard is expected to take a role as a defensive end rather than outside linebacker, where he played in 2017. Sheard has plenty of experience with his hand in the dirt throughout his seven-year career, though. He will likely remain the top pass-rushing option as the Colts usher in and groom some younger players in 2018.
Sheard was the only Colts player to make the top 101. PFF also released a list of the 10 players who just missed the cut. There were no Colts on that list.
Joining the Pittsburgh Panthers in 2010, Sheard consistently developed through his four seasons in college. After totaling just three tackles in seven games his freshman year, Sheard exploded for 45 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in 2011. His level of play continued to grow and he finished out his collegiate career with 142 tackles, 35.5 for a loss and 19.5 total sacks.
A second round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, Sheard would become a member of the Cleveland Browns and spend his first four seasons in the AFC North. Sheard started in his first 45 games of his professional career and had 97 tackles, 21 sacks, seven forced fumbles and nine pass deflections. Sheard’s numbers, however, decreased in each season following his rookie year, which resulted in him starting in just five games in 2014. He would then sign in the following offseason with the New England Patriots on a two-year, $11 million contract.
In his two seasons in New England, Sheard started in nine of his 33 appearances — eight of which were in 2016 — and won his first and only Super Bowl Championship in the Patriots 34-28 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl 51. In the 2016 playoffs, Sheard had 0.5 sacks, two tackles and five assists on tackles. That following offseason Sheard signed a three-year, $25.5 million contract with the Colts starting all 16 games of the 2017 season — leading the team in sacks with 5.5 and totaling 37 tackles.
INDIANAPOLIS – Jabaal Sheard was easily the most consistent and disruptive front 7 player for the Colts last season.
Sheard finished his first year with the Colts having posted 5.5 sacks (including a game-clincher in Houston). But diving deeper into Sheard’s numbers shows he was even more productive than just your basic sack numbers.
Per Pro Football Focus, Sheard had the 13th most pressures in the league last year (66) and was 4th in total run stops (30) among edge defenders.
Those effective numbers, against the run and pass, are impressive and offer one of the few glimmers of hope from last year’s major defensive struggles.
But Sheard isn’t up for hearing too much about them.
“We finished as one of the worst teams in the league,” Sheard said to Colts.com earlier this spring. “No matter how you played individually, we’ve got to be better.
“Everyone knows that, unless you want change again.”
Things have changed pretty substantially on the defensive side of the ball for the Colts.
Sheard and his teammates are immersed in learning a new 4-3 system.
It’s been a while since Sheard, an 8-year veteran, played in a 4-3.
The former second-round pick in 2011 points out the ‘dummied’ down defense in which his switch to a hand in the dirt defensive end will gladly remove him from coverage responsibilities.
“It’s about guys up front creating penetration and just making it (cleaner) for the linebackers,” Sheard says. “It’s not going to be your (Dwight) Freeney and (Robert) Mathis back in the day but hopefully we can work to that point where we get some pass rushers and get after the quarterback. We won’t be them, but hopefully something like them, being aggressive and getting after quarterbacks and running backs in the backfield.”
Last season, the Colts finished the year with a mere 26 sacks—the fewest for the team in more than a decade.
What has followed in the aftermath of missing the playoffs for a third straight season?
New coaches. New schemes. New personnel.
“If you don’t win,” Sheard reiterates, “things change.”
Jabaal Sheard is moving on from the New England Patriots following two seasons with the reigning Super Bowl champions, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Field Yates.
Schefter added it’s a three-year deal worth $25.5 million with $12.75 million guaranteed.
Sheard inked a two-year, $11 million deal to suit up for the Patriots in March 2015, and he looked like an instant bargain.
After he racked up 23 sacks in four seasons with the Cleveland Browns, Sheard proceeded to tally eight sacks in his first season as a member of the Patriots. During the productive campaign, Sheard graded out as the Patriots’ top defender with an overall grade of 88.2, according to Pro Football Focus’ Ben Stockwell.