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2019-20 season bold predictions: Linebackers

Between edge rushers and inside guys, the Ravens have linebacker corps will look different next season.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Baltimore Ravens Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Matthew Judon doubles his sack total from last season

Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith are gone, leaving Matthew Judon as the only true established, proven pass-rusher within the outside linebacker corps. Judon has been an underrated contributor for several years now and as he enters a contract year, it feels like he’s about to break out in a big way. Judon recorded seven sacks last season, the same number as Suggs and just 1.5 less than Smith. However, Judon played the least amount of snaps between the three of them and with both Suggs and Smith out of the picture, his snap total figures to increase significantly, and so too will his opportunities to get sacks. Going from seven to 14 sacks would represent a big jump and would put Judon in a new class of leading sack-getters in the entire league. Bold? Certainly, but don’t underestimate Judon’s talent nor capabilities. He has all the tools to put together a huge season.

Jaylon Ferguson finishes top-five in DROTY voting

This past draft class was loaded on the defensive side of the ball, particularly in the first and second rounds and at the edge-rusher position. With guys like Nick Bosa, Quinnen Williams, and Devin White set to make an immediate impact for their respective teams, there’s no way Ravens rookie Jaylon Ferguson would receive consideration for Defensive Player of the Year, right? Not so fast. Ferguson, the FBS’s all-time leading sack-getter, could be primed for a very productive rookie campaign.

He’ll have every opportunity to win a starting spot opposite Judon on defense and even if someone else, like Tim Williams or Tyus Bowser, cracks the starting lineup ahead of him, expect him to play a significant amount of snaps regardless. Ferguson could approach the territory of 8-10 sacks if things fall into place. Throw in a steady number of tackles and a forced turnover or two, and Ferguson will have a solid case for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Predicting him to win the actual award is bit out there, but finishing top-five in the voting? Bold, but feasible.

Chris Board finishes top-five on the team in tackles

The Ravens have a history of developing undrafted free agents into quality NFL players, especially at the linebacker position. It appears Chris Board, whose entering his second career season, could be next-in-line to pick up the mantle. Board played all but 14 of his 370 snaps on speical teams last season but with C.J. Mosley now on the New York Jets, he figures to see more snaps on defense next year. Board has reportedly impressed thus far in OTA’s and added nearly 10 pounds of muscle.

With Patrick Onwuasor set to slide into Mosley’s role and Kenny Young moving up the depth chart as well, Board has an inside track at the #3 inside linebacker job. Young held this role last season and recorded 51 tackles despite playing just over 35% of the team’s defensive snaps. If Board slides into a similar role, he’ll have opportunities to make plays. Board was the team’s leading tackler in the preseason last year.

Kenny Young leads the team in tackles

Speaking of Young, he too appears primed for a big second-year leap. The former UCLA product is all but penciled into a starting role after playing an important part of the linebacker rotation last season behind Mosley and Onwuasor. Young flashed legit upside at times but also struggled with some inconsistencies. With another offseason under his belt and more experience running with the 1’s, Young only figures to improve from here on out. As we saw last season, Young possesses sideline-to-sideline speed and impressive athletic ability that allows him to cover ground quickly.

Mosley had been the team’s tackling leader over the past several years, so somebody will have to pick up the slack. Onwuasor and safety Tony Jefferson seem like logical choices and while they’ll certainly make an impact in the tackling department, don’t be surprised if it’s Young who ultimately steps up to the plate. He had just eight less combined tackles than “Peanut” last year despite playing 65 less snaps and actually recorded three more solo tackles. With a more prominent role in his sophomore campaign, look for Young to make plays all over the field.

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