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Ravens Linebacker Recap: Pre-Draft Edition

Ravens linebacker Matt Judon sacking Raiders' Quarterback Derek Carr

In each installment of this series, we will take a look at a Baltimore Ravens position group and review it in preparation for the 2020 NFL Draft.

Coming up next in this series will be the Ravens’ linebacker group.

Check out the other Ravens position group recaps. Quarterback | Running Back | Wide Receiver | Tight End and Fullback | Offensive Line | Defensive Line | Linebacker | Cornerback | Safety | Special Teams

Ravens Linebacker Recap: The Players

Matt Judon 6’3″, 261 pounds, 16 games, Outside Linebacker
2019– 16 starts in 2019. 54 tackles, 14 tackles for a loss, 9.5 sacks, 33 quarterback hits, four forced fumbles.

Jaylon Ferguson 6’5″, 275 pounds, 14 games, Outside Linebacker
2019– Nine starts in 2019. 31 tackles, six tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks, nine quarterback hits, one fumble recovery.

Tyus Bowser 6’3″, 242 pounds, 16 games, Outside Linebacker
2019- Zero starts in 2019. 24 tackles, three tackles for a loss, five sacks, 10 quarterback hits, one forced
fumble, one fumble recovery, one touchdown.

Aaron Adeoye 6’6″, 250 pounds, zero games, Outside Linebacker
2019– Spent time on the Ravens’ practice squad.

Michael Onuoha 6’5″, 255 pounds, zero games, Outside Linebacker
2019- Missed the 2019 season with a wrist injury. Spent time on the Ravens’ practice squad.

L.J. Fort 6’0″, 232 pounds, sixteen games, Inside Linebacker
2019- Eight starts in 2019 for the Ravens. 37 tackles, four tackles for a loss, two sacks, two
quarterback hits.

Chris Board 6’2″, 229 pounds, fifteen games, Inside Linebacker
2019- Zero starts in 2019. 10 tackles, one tackle for a loss.

Otaro Alaka 6’3″, 239 pounds, zero games, Inside Linebacker
2019- Spent the year on injured reserve.

Jake Ryan 6’2″, 240 pounds, two games, Inside Linebacker
2019- Zero starts for the Jaguars in 2019. Only played one snap on defense for Jacksonville before getting injured.

Group Overview

With the exception of Matt Judon, this Ravens’ linebacker group certainly lacks any big-name stars. This group has gone under a lot of change in the past two seasons. Longtime Ravens legend Terrell Suggs left for the Cardinals. C.J. Mosley signed with the Jets last offseason. Patrick Onwuasor left for the Jets this offseason. Despite that, this group does have some potential heading into 2020.

The Starters

Matt Judon had a great 2019 season at outside linebacker. Judon is the Ravens’ best pass rusher. He earned career highs in sacks, quarterback hits, and forced fumbles. Judon is also fantastic at defending the run. The Ravens gave Judon the franchise tag earlier this offseason in hopes of working out a long-term deal.

L.J. Fort was another 2019 in-season signing for the Ravens that worked out very well. With C.J. Mosley leaving for the Jets last offseason, the Ravens were lacking severely at inside linebacker to start the 2019 season. Once he was released by the Eagles after week 4, Fort signed with the Ravens and quickly earned a starting role. After less than two months with the team, Fort’s strong play earned him a two-year contract extension.

Jaylon Ferguson is the wildcard of the Ravens’ current starting linebackers. A 2019 third-round draft pick, Ferguson started nine games for the Ravens in 2019. Flashing some pass-rushing potential, the Ravens are hoping Ferguson will take the next step in his second season.

The Supporting Cast

The supporting cast behind the Ravens’ starters at linebacker is very thin. Tyus Bowser offers the most game experience but is still developing. Bowser was responsible for five sacks and a fumble recovery that went for a touchdown. Outside of Bowser, no other Ravens’ backup linebackers saw significant game action. Chris Board was active for all 16 games but only played 78 snaps on defense, getting a majority of his snaps on special teams.

Otaro Alaka showed a lot of potential at inside linebacker during the preseason last year. Alaka made the initial 53-man roster as an undrafted free agent but was placed on injured reserve early in the season without seeing any game action. Aaron Adeoye has the physical tools to become a great pass rusher. He spent the 2019 season on the Ravens’ practice squad. Michael Onuoha did not have a chance to show his potential as a pass rusher due to fracturing his wrist the first week of preseason. The Ravens opted to bring him back this year to give him another chance.

Jake Ryan is the brand new addition to this group. Ryan is a former starter for the Packers. He has missed significant time the last two seasons dealing with injuries. The Ravens are hoping he has fully recovered and can return to the form that got him 80+ tackles a season in his brief stint starting for the Packers.

Comparison of Ravens Linebacker stats in 2019.
Via Pro Football Reference’s Stat Comparison Finder

Draft Expectations

2020 NFL Draft image

Needs

Linebacker has to be considered one of the Ravens’ greatest needs heading into the draft. The Ravens desperately need more outside linebackers that can rush the passer. In addition to that, the Ravens need at least one starter at inside linebacker to pair with L.J. Fort. Ideally, the Ravens will be able to grab a day one starter at inside linebacker. They could use a developmental inside linebacker that can contribute on special teams as well.

What To Expect

The expectation heading into the draft is for the Ravens to select an inside linebacker early. The Ravens are in desperate need of a stud at inside linebacker. The 2020 draft is loaded with potential at inside linebacker. If the Ravens aren’t able to find a linebacker they covet in the first two rounds, there will be many with starting potential to be found later. Look for the Ravens to draft a potential day one starter. They will also likely add a developmental project at the position from the later rounds or as an undrafted free agent.

The Ravens will also be targeting outside linebackers that specialize in rushing the passer. With only Judon giving a consistent pass rush from linebacker, the Ravens will be looking for some difference-makers on the edge. You should expect the Ravens to target an edge rusher within the first three rounds.

Early-round targets: K’Lavon Chaisson, Kenneth Murray, Patrick Queen, Zack Baun
Developmental targets: Willie Gay Jr, Troy Dye, Khalid Kareem

Ravens Linebacker Group Grade

Overall Grade: C-

This Ravens’ linebacker group is very thin overall. With the exception of Matt Judon, the Ravens are lacking stars at the position. If Judon goes down, the Ravens pass rush is in serious trouble. Normally fielding two starters at inside linebacker, the Ravens only have one right now. The Ravens have decent depth at linebacker, but they are in desperate need of some stars to take this group’s game to the next level.


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Jeff Swartz MMA
Jeff Swartz is a combat sports writer and editor for Overtimeheroics.net. With a focus on Sparta Sports and Entertainment, Jeff also covers major combat sports promotions like the UFC, Bellator, ONE, World Lethwei Championship, and much more! Jeff also occasionally writes pieces about the Baltimore Ravens NFL team.
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