There are certain franchises that are known for producing great quality at the same position consistently. For the Steelers, it’s wide receiver. For the Colts, it’s quarterback, dating all the way back to their days in Baltimore. For the Ravens, that position is unquestionably linebacker, and they look pretty set at the position again as we head into 2017.
The loss of All-Pro Zachary Orr can’t be understated, but the middle of the defense should yet again be a strength thanks simply to the presence of C.J. Mosley, who will be entering his fourth season. A year after posting his best statistical season and his second Pro Bowl nod, Mosley enters 2017 as the captain of this defense, and will be counted on to lead it to another quality campaign.
Next to him, possible replacements for Orr could be Kamalei Correa, Albert McClellan, or someone like Patrick Onwausor. None of those names are particularly exciting, but it’s easy to forget that Orr was an undrafted free agent who had to make a name for himself; don’t count any of those guys out just yet.
At the outside linebacker position Terrell Suggs, the longest tenured Raven, will be making his return to the field after questions surrounding his future having swirled for a few offseasons now. Suggs will be hungry to prove his doubters wrong, but he knows the score. The clock is ticking on his career, and while he can still play, as he proved last year, he’ll need some young players to step up and pick up a little bit more slack for him.
That will start with second and third year players Matthew Judon and Za’Darius Smith. Smith had a relatively impressive rookie season in 2015, as did Judon last year, especially in comparison to where they were drafted. They’ll get first dibs on the spot vacated by Elvis Dumervil, and would be wise to work hard through training camp and the preseason to lock it up.
If they can’t, rookies Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams are entering the building with a whole lot of pedigree, and if it translates, they’ll be hot on the aforementioned duo’s heels. They both bring separate skill sets, with Bowser being versatile and Williams being much more of a pure pass rusher. Even if neither of them start in 2017, there will be plenty of opportunities for them to get on the field.
While potential proves nothing until results actually bear it out, it looks like the Ravens are ready to transition into a new era of talented linebackers in 2017. We’ll soon see if that is in fact the case.