Baltimore Ravens' rookie Courtney Upshaw got the start at outside linebacker against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday mostly because of veteran Paul Kruger's inability to play the run but Upshaw took complete advantage of the situation and played the best game of his short professional career. He was a factor in the run game but he also was very good in the pass rush as well.
Chasing down quarterback Michael Vick is not an easy task and most of the time he does get sacked it is due to the fact that there was a breakdown in pass protection in which he did not have time to react. There were several situations this past Sunday where Upshaw straight up beat his man and caused Vick to scramble out of the pocket. Upshaw did not get there all the time but he did disrupt the plays and showed a natural pass rushing ability that some have questioned since his second round fall on draft day.Upshaw finished the day with five tackles and one assist but most of what he did will not be seen in the stat sheet. The combination of Upshaw and Albert McClellan at the outside linebacker position seems to be the Ravens best option at the moment. Kruger can not be counted on to set the edge or drop into pass coverage but still could be used as a situational pass rusher just like he was last season.
The other surprise has been the play of linebacker Dannell Ellerbe. Not so much his on field production but the amount of time he has been on the field. He has played much bigger a role than anyone predicted in the off season. Heading into the season it was thought that Jameel McClain would spend the majority of time in the slot next to Ray Lewis at inside linebacker but it seems new defensive coordinator Dean Pees favors Ellerbe in that spot.
There have been a lot of surprises in the first two games of the 2012 season and I expect there will be plenty more. Hopefully the Ravens can get their defense figured out sooner rather than later. They looked pretty good week one but still gave up a lot of rushing yards. Then, in week two they were gashed by the Eagles even though they were able to cause a few turnovers, they were not up to the task when the team needed them most. Neither was the offense for that matter.
The Ravens definitely did not play their best game against the Eagles but they were still in a position to win at the end and failed to do so. There is a lot to work on this week and another tough opponent on the horizon. It will be interesting to see what kind of changes or adjustments the team makes in week three against the New England Patriots, another team the Ravens let of the hook on a much bigger stage, if any.