With the recent news that Ray Lewis has a triceps tear injury that has ended his 2012 season, the next topic automatically becomes who will step up in his absence to take his spot in the middle of the Baltimore Ravens defense. Lewis has obviously been a mainstay there since the Ravens officially became a franchise in 1996. However, this will be the third time he has missed at least ten games in a season, the first since 2005.
Last year, Lewis sat out four games with a toe injury and his place was taken by a combination of players. The three guys who substituted during that absence are still on the roster and figure to do the same thing this year. Brendon Ayanbadejo, Dannell Ellerbe and Albert McClellan all played during that time and contributed in a variety of ways. All three figure to fill the same roles this time around as well.
Jameel McClain has been playing regularly next to Lewis in the most of the Ravens 3-4 defensive schemes, Ellerbe seems to be the next logical choice to join McClain, as his playing time has increased since last year. Ayanbadejo gets his share of reps, although he now appears to be best suited for solely Special Teams, although his whiff on the Dallas Cowboys onsides kick might have you thinking differently.
McClellan has been playing mostly on the outside ever since the injury to Terrell Suggs. He played sparingly yet quite well on the inside in Lewis' absence last season. He could very well be moved inside once Suggs returns from injury, which could happen as early as this coming week against the Houston Texans but more realistically, after the team's Bye Week, for the week eight game at the Cleveland Browns on November 4th.
There is the outside chance that Sergio Kindle may get more playing time on the outside if someone like McClellan is moved inside. The Ravens also have two linebackers on their Practice Squad, ILB Josh Bynes and OLB Adrian Hamilton.