clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Ravens roster breakdown: Outside Linebackers

One of the most dynamic pass-rushing tandems in the league headline a strong position group for the 2015 Baltimore Ravens.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Ravens likely feel very comfortable with their outside linebacker position. The group is headlined by arguably one of the best pass-rushing duos in the league with Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, with quality players serving in backup roles.

Dumervil and Suggs combined for 29 sacks last season (Dumervil with 17, Suggs with 12). They will once again be one of the top pass-rushing duos in the league. Dumervil even stated earlier in the summer that he is aiming for the NFL sack record. The record is currently held by Michael Strahan with 22.5. Dumervil is also 10 sacks away from breaking the 100 career mark.

Courtney Upshaw returns after totaling 42 tackles last season, including five for a loss. Upshaw has been working this offseason on his pass-rushing skills after recording only one sack all of last season, which came in the divisional round playoff matchup against the Steelers. Upshaw is entering a contract year, and in previous years, pass-rushing outside linebackers for the Ravens have gotten big paydays by posting impressive sack numbers in the final year of their deals (ex. Paul Kruger, Pernell McPhee)

Za'Darius Smith was drafted in the 4th round by the Ravens and many think he can come in and fill the role of Pernell McPhee, who left in free agency this offseason to sign with the Bears. Smith will have big shoes to fill if he is indeed being groomed to replace McPhee, who tallied 7.5 sacks last year (third on the team) and was second in the league in QB hits.

Smith comes from the University of Kentucky, where he primarily played defensive end, but defensive coordinator Dean Pees and head coach John Harbaugh believe he can become a strong pass-rusher as an outside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme. In 2 years at Kentucky, Smith posted 10.5 sacks.

Steven Means was raved about in the offseason, with John Harbaugh and Ozzie Newsome bringing up his name on more than one occasion. Means is a former practice squad player who saw some playing time in Tampa his rookie year, and  he provides the versatility to line up as a pass-rushing outside linebacker or as a defensive end (he is listed as an OLB on the team's official depth chart).

Brennen Beyer, a rookie out of Michigan, and Zach Thompson, a practice squad player, have their work cut out for them to make the final roster. The team is stocked with defensive players, so these guys will have to be extremely valuable special teams players in order to make the final cuts.

Upshaw, Smith, and Means will need to step up their pass-rushing production this year in order to make up for the loss of McPhee. With the talent and potential that Means and Smith possess, and Upshaw's motivation in a contract year, along with Suggs and Dumervil, I believe the outside linebackers will be one of the stronger position groups for the Ravens this season.

Starters: Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Courtney Upshaw

Backups: Steven Means, Za'Darius Smith