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Ravens Defense: What About Courtney Upshaw?

A lot of focus has been on Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. Then there's second-year outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw trying to make a name of his own.

With Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil as the top two OLBs, what role will Courtney Upshaw play this year?
With Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil as the top two OLBs, what role will Courtney Upshaw play this year?
Mitch Stringer-US PRESSWIRE

The Ravens will have one of the best outside linebacker duos in the NFL.

Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil are elite pass rushers that will make it difficult for quarterbacks to find a rhythm during games. But with those spots set, where does that leave second-year outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw?

Upshaw was drafted with the 35th overall pick in the 2012 draft. Projected in the first round, he slipped to the second and spoke about how it motivated him at the time. Even though he reported to last year's training camp overweight, he slimmed down and started nine of the Ravens' 16 regular season games.

Though he only notched 1.5 sacks, he totaled 60 tackles and did a good job as a run defender. However, he was known as a superior pass rusher in college at Alabama and will vie to play as fast in the NFL as he did with the Crimson Tide.

But with Suggs and Dumervil's roles set, what can the Ravens expect out of Upshaw this season? Are there enough snaps to go around for three outside linebackers?

"I think Courtney is going to be stout for us, particularly where it's going to work out," Suggs said. "We're going to get him on the field as much as we can and as much as possible. He was huge for us last year, I can't explain how huge Courtney Upshaw was for us."

Said Dumervil: "I think as a rookie, he played outstanding with the reps he had. He's a good run stopper. I think his football IQ is pretty good too. He's still learning and he's hungry and he's willing to work. And that's important."

One way to get Upshaw more snaps is to continue utilizing him the way the coaching staff did a year ago. In addition to outside linebacker, Upshaw rotated down to defensive end and even played some snaps at nose tackle in certain substitution packages. With two top tier outside linebackers, that may be the best way to get Upshaw enough snaps while keeping Suggs and Dumervil on the field for the majority of the time.

Upshaw is still young and has plenty of time to see his way onto the football field. Though it's unlikely Upshaw will be that every-down linebacker he hopes to be this year, Suggs thinks there's a bright future for him.

"I think the sky’s the limit for Courtney," Suggs said. "He’s in his second year. It’s however or how he we’re going to go is pretty much up to him."

Follow me on twitter: @JasonHButt