The Ravens will face the Rams in their second of five preseason games tonight. A tough opponent such as Los Angeles will prove a good test for Baltimore’s young players. Whether trying to solidify a starting role or just make the 53-man roster, here are three players who need strong performances:
The former undrafted inside linebacker won the starting job next to C.J. Mosley last year and enjoyed a solid season. Starting all 16 games, Onwuasor finished with 90 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. A major weakness for Baltimore’s inside linebacker’s in 2017, however, was pass coverage, specifically against tight ends.
To help fix this issue, the Ravens drafted inside linebacker Kenny Young from UCLA in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Young’s strongest attribute entering the draft was his coverage ability, with run defense being his main weakness. So far through training camp and the Hall of Fame game, Young has looked strong against the run, which shouldn’t come as a big surprise given Baltimore’s history of successfully developing linebackers. If Young can continue to impress on the field, then he could find himself starting over Onwuasor.
Onwuasor could fight back the rookie with a strong performance of his own against the Rams highly explosive offense, which is led by the 2017 NFL Offensive Player of the Year, running back Todd Gurley. Gurley will provide a daunting challenge for the third-year linebacker, as he looks to prove himself still worthy of the starting job.
After losing center Ryan Jensen in free agency, the Ravens now have an open competition for the position, mainly between Skura and Alex Lewis. Skura was the favorite to win the starting role heading into training camp, but he has reportedly struggled with bigger defensive tackles. Lewis has performed slightly better, but has a history of injuries. Skura could take the lead again with a sturdy game against Los Angeles.
The Rams boast an intimidating defensive line, most notably Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh. With Donald currently holding out due to contract negotiations, Skura will only face Suh this preseason. This will be a prime opportunity for him to show that he can handle elite defensive lineman. With tackles such as Geno Atkins in the AFC North, Skura must show that he can match up with Suh if he hopes to win the starting job.
After missing all of the 2017 season with a torn ACL, the special teams captain now hopes to prove he still belongs in Baltimore. McClellan’s main competition is former second-round pick Kamalei Correa. Correa was a key special teams player last season, and is coming off of a huge performance against the Bears in the Hall of Fame game, where he had three sacks, a forced fumble and an interception. Correa offers the same versatility on defense as McClellan, playing both inside and outside linebacker.
McClellan’s leadership has been constantly praised by Ravens special teams coach Jerry Rosburg, so he has that in his favor over Correa. In the Hall of Fame game, however, McClellan did not look good, allowing a long gain through the air and a passing touchdown to fullback Michael Burton. At 32-years old, Baltimore may choose to finally part ways with the veteran. Correa, a former second-round pick, could sway the Ravens to keep him as well.
If McClellan rebounds against Los Angeles with a solid game, then the coaching staff would be more inclined to keep the seasoned special teams leader. It’s possible that both McClellan and Correa could make the roster, but with so much competition at seemingly every position, it would be hard to justify keeping two very similar players.