Had Elvis Dumervil not fallen into the Ravens' lap last year, fellow outside linebacker John Simon may have had more than four tackles during his rookie season.
The fourth-round pick and former Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year found himself in a log-jam of talent at outside linebacker. With players like Dumervil, Terrell Suggs, Courtney Upshaw and Pernell McPhee ahead of Simon on the depth chart, his playing time was going to be scarce.
Moving Simon to middle linebacker made sense, as his talent would be better served actually on the defensive side of the ball versus being reduced to a special teams contributor. This was something I asked Ravens head coach John Harbaugh about following Dumervil's signing.
"You're right, we have a lot of depth there, so that does stack up against him," Harbaugh said. "John is not a middle linebacker type of guy for us. He's an outside linebacker."
Harbaugh was complimentary of Simon's pass rushing "knack" and even applauded him for dropping into coverage, which was something he didn't do while in college Ohio State.
Now that a year has passed, the Ravens find themselves in a similar situation. However, they're even thinner at middle linebacker following the loss of Jameel McClain, who signed with the New York Giants during free agency.
Just as I did a year ago, I still believe Simon should get a shot at middle linebacker. In the nicest way possible, Simon should be considered a meathead. He's extremely intimidating and if his NFL career doesn't work out for him, he'd be a great character in professional wrestling. Standing at 6-2 with 260 pounds of muscle, he could be the physical presence in the middle of the field that the Ravens lacked last season.
Daryl Smith clearly owns one spot in the middle, but whomever will be playing next to him remains to be seen. Josh Bynes had the job before Jameel McClain's return from a spinal chord contusion, and at this point should still be considered the favorite for a starting spot.
Last year's second-round pick Arthur Brown struggled. For what Brown lacks in size, he makes up for in speed, but it's clear he needs to add another 10-15 pounds of muscle mass before the season begins. Brown appeared to struggle with the transition from playing football in college versus the professional ranks. Having only played in nickel formations last season, I expected more from a player the Ravens traded up to get so early in the draft.
Why wouldn't the Ravens give Simon an opportunity? Unless a series of injuries happen at outside linebacker, Simon's snaps don't appear to be increasing this season. To me, Simon's best shot for playing time is in the middle of the defense and the last time I checked, Dumervil and Suggs are here for the long-term.
It's at least worth a shot.