Prior to the preseason, so much was expected of Pernell McPhee that the second-year defensive end was already penciled in as a starter. But a nagging right knee forced him to undergo a pair of arthroscopic surgeries during a minicamp and before training camp, and McPhee, who had collected six sacks as a rookie, recorded just 1½ this past season.
McPhee eventually began the year as the starting end on the defense’s 3-4 front, but after six games, he gave way to Arthur Jones who started six of the next seven contests in which the unit opened with three down linemen.
Jones’ play – career highs in both sacks (4½) and tackles (47) – has relegated McPhee to rotating with Jones, but McPhee said he has no problem working with Jones.
“It’s frustrating, but yeah, I love it now,” he said.
McPhee said the primary reason is that he’s been able to avoid the wear and tear that would normally come from starting all 16 games in the regular season. McPhee, who was deactivated for a four-game stretch in November, initially chafed at the idea of sitting, but has a much more grateful perspective in hindsight.
“[N]ow I’m healthier and I got the chance to help the team out on third-and-long and show some of the pass-rushing skills that I’ve got,” he said. “Coach [defensive coordinator Dean Pees] is doing a good job with how he’s rotating me in as far as certain packages, and that’s keeping me fresh, keeping me healthier. So I’ve just got this routine that I’m sticking with, and it’s helping me out a lot.”
McPhee has been more of a force in the Ravens’ last two playoff contests. He sacked Peyton Manning once, forced a fumble, and finished with three tackles in the team’s 38-35 double-overtime win against the Denver Broncos in the AFC Divisional round. Then he tipped two Tom Brady passes at the line of scrimmage, including one that inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe intercepted in the fourth quarter of an eventual 28-13 victory over the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game.
McPhee is happy to contribute, but he said he’s not getting crazy about his numbers just yet.
“I think every guy should want to play their best football in the playoffs,” he said. “I’ve been banged up all year, and fortunately, God blessed me with a second opportunity to go out and play. So whatever chance, however many plays Coach gives me, I try to make the best of it.”