Pernell McPhee of the Baltimore Ravens picked the perfect season to showcase his versatile pass rushing skills. He is set to hit the free agent market after completing the final year of a four year $2.18 million contract that he signed with the Baltimore Ravens after he was selected in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL draft. A number of teams will have an interest in acquiring his services.
If there is one thing that has been pretty consistent about the Ravens this season, it’s the pass rush. Elvis Dumervil has already set a franchise record with 17 sacks. Terrell Suggs eclipsed the 100-career sack mark and has 11 sacks this season. McPhee has 5.5 sacks so statistically, he has not had an outstanding season, but anyone who watches closely will see that he is getting to the quarterback. His problem is Dumervil and Suggs get there faster.
Dumervil gave McPhee a glowing endorsement when asked about the versatile pass rusher, he said, “As a pure rusher, he’s probably one of the better ones that I’ve seen. He lines up both outside and inside. He’s probably got a better finesse game than me.”
The Ravens defense has utilized McPhee in various positions. He has lined up as an edge rusher, a nose tackle and even a middle linebacker blitzing the interior gaps. There are very few players who can be effective from such a variety of positions. McPhee is 6’ 3” and 280 pounds, which gives him the size to play on the interior. Despite his large size, he is light on his feet and has an explosive first step, which allows him to be disruptive from the outside.
The athleticism that McPhee exhibits on Sundays, dates back to his days at Pahokee High School in Florida. The football players at Pahokee are known for developing athleticism by chasing rabbits in a field. He was on the same high school team as two other current NFL players, Janoris Jenkins (St. Louis Rams) and Bill Bentley (Detroit Lions). McPhee played only one year of high school football but in that one season he had 19 sacks and 12 forced fumbles as a defensive end. He was also an all-state basketball player at Pahokee.
Pahokee, Florida is known as “The Muck.” Some of the things that he went through when he lived there has made him never want to ever live there again.
“Every day, I wake up and say, ‘No matter what, I’m not going back for good.’ A lot of guys are scared to go back to Pahokee. I go back because it makes me hungry.” McPhee explained.
During the off-season, it’s not unusual to see McPhee in Pahokee. It serves as motivation for him. He used an interesting metaphor when he described how he draws motivation from his homecoming visits.
“[Have] you ever-seen crabs in a bucket? When one tries to climb up, one drags you down. That’s how our city is.” McPhee said. “When I go there, they don’t know what my intention is. I go there to feel that. I go into every game pissed off. The only thing I have to do is think about my little city. I’m pissed off about all the crabs trying to grab me.”
He lived a tough life there. “You can’t go out the door without fighting in Pahokee, a real fight.” McPhee said. “I used to fight every day. I lost some and I won some. You from a project, I’m from another project, we see each other in school and we fight. That’s just how it is.”
McPhee’s success as a pass rusher continued in his second year of organized football when he racked up 19 sacks as a freshman at Itawamba Community College in Mississippi. He had 13.5 sacks during his sophomore year before transferring to Mississippi State. McPhee started all 25 games of his career at Mississippi State.
This year is considered to be the best year of his career. The Ravens know that they have a budding star on their hands. There is a chance that he may sign with another team during the off-season. The Ravens will surely do their best to retain one of their best pass rushers after this season.