The Baltimore Ravens enter the 2020 season as a SuperBowl contender, after a tremendous 2019 campaign. Their 14-2 record led the NFL, but the franchise hasn’t rested on its laurels this off-season. The front office recognized the defense needed an upgrade.
They subsequently traded for Calais Campbell and signed free agent Derek Wolfe to bolster their defensive line. Linebacker was a significant need for the Ravens, especially after veterans Josh Bynes and Patrick Onwuasor departed in free agency. Baltimore addressed the position with two draft picks, and both will be expected to lead their position group this season.
Patrick Queen Leads Revamped Ravens Linebackers
Despite being a rookie, first-round pick Patrick Queen will almost certainly lead the interior of the Ravens defense this season. The former LSU standout was a vital component of their championship defense, with 85 tackles, eight tackles for loss, three sacks, and one interception in 2019. As a one-year starter, he improved massively as the season wore on, winning defensive MVP of the national championship game with eight total tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss.
Queen’s best attributes are his speed. His 4.50 40-time was third amongst linebackers. He’s an authentic sideline-to-sideline tackling machine, providing athleticism that has been lacking from the Ravens linebackers. On passing downs, Queen is going to make plays, and can only improve as he develops. His only knocks are a need to improve his coverage ability, and his size at 6 feet and 229 pounds are a bit small for the position.
Malik Harrison The Other New Player in Revamped Unit
The Baltimore Ravens used a third-round pick this year to select Malik Harrison from Ohio State, selecting him to be the perfect complement to fellow rookie Patrick Queen. Harrison has great size at 6 foot 2 and 247 pounds and excels in the run game. He’s also a fearsome tackler and works best in short area situations. He’s able to diagnose, and process plays very quickly and isn’t afraid to fly upfield to make a tackle.
His limitations are in coverage. His struggles on passing downs make it unlikely he will ever be a three-down linebacker. Harrison’s skills are geared for the early downs as a thumper in the run game. He can also contribute on special teams, and this versatility will be something the coaches love about Harrison. He projects as an old-school tackling machine that Ravens fans and coaches will love to watch.
L.J Fort Adds Depth to Ravens Roster
Baltimore signed L.J. Fort in late September last year after the Eagles waived him. By early November, the Ravens were impressed enough to re-sign him to a two-year $5.5 million deal. Fort helped anchor the Ravens defense and was a factor in why the unit improved so drastically during the season. Despite playing in only 26% of the defensive snaps, he contributed with 35 tackles and two sacks across 12 games.
He also played a majority of the snaps, 58%, on special teams. This ability to contribute in multiple phases of play is likely why the Ravens re-signed him so quickly. Fort is an athletic linebacker who plays best in space and is a good open-space tackler. He’s undersized at 6 feet 232 pounds, which can cause struggles against the run. He provides veteran experience across an eight-year career and is a solid rotational piece to back up the rookie Queen.
Chris Board Looking to Stick at Linebacker
Chris Board is the player the Baltimore Ravens always seem to produce. Board is entering his third year, after going undrafted in 2018. Since then, he has earned his role primarily on special teams. He played the second-most special teams snaps, 68%, in 2019, and it’s this versatility the Ravens love.
Board wasn’t a significant contributor on defense last season, with only ten tackles and one forced fumble in 15 games. He only played 7% of the total defensive snaps. As a rookie Board was very impressive in the pre-season but has yet to earn a significant defensive role. His lack of size at 6 foot 2 and 229 pounds limits his chances, but he does have good length and has worked hard to add muscle for the rigors of the NFL. The Ravens have a history of uncovering UDFA gems and developing them. Board could be the next example.
Otaro Alaka Looking For A Chance in Revamped Unit
Otaro Alako is another inexperienced UDFA gem, entering his second year with the Baltimore Ravens. He made an impression in the pre-season last year with 14 tackles across four games but failed to earn any playing time in the regular season. His strengths are his size and length at 6 foot 3 and 239 pounds, and his support in the run game. He works best when in short areas.
His struggles are in coverage, with limited athleticism and a 4.82 40-time. He’s also an inconsistent tackler who needs to improve his technique. Despite this, he can be a contributor on special teams, which is essential in Baltimore and can provide depth for rookie Malik Harrison as a run-stuffing throwback linebacker.
Kristian Welch Hoping to Achieve NFL Dreams
Kristian Welch signed with the Ravens this year as an undrafted free agent out of Iowa. He was a two-year starter for the Hawkeyes and excelled in his senior year, transitioning from weak-side to inside linebacker with 87 tackles. Welch has excellent size at 6 foot 3 and 239 pounds and plays with tremendous football IQ.
Welch is best playing against the run, using his size to allow him to excel at making tackles in crowded space. He’s limited in coverage and passing downs, with slow speed, and is easily pushed off the ball. Welch needs time to develop after only playing inside linebacker for one year in college. He will need a big training camp to have a chance at making the roster. Proving he can play special teams will only aid his cause if he wants to be a part of this revamped linebacker unit.
That wraps up my recap of this revamped Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker group, let us know your thoughts on it below in the comments section. Follow the home page here and NFL page here to keep up with all the latest sports news. Be sure to check out the site forum page here for great sports discussions.