After the Ravens selected him in the fourth round of last year’s draft, linebacker Kenny Young made a strong impression during his rookie season. The UCLA product took on a larger role than many expected and while there were some bumps here and there, it was a relatively successful freshman campaign.
Young is primed for a larger role this upcoming season and is off to a strong start thus far in the spring. Given what we saw from Young last year, look for him to take advantage of an increase in snaps and opportunities.
Here are four goals for Young heading into the 2019-20 season. Be sure to join the conversation and share your thoughts down below!
1) Win the #2 linebacker job
When C.J. Mosley signed with the Jets in free agency, the instant assumption was that Patrick Onwuasor and Kenny Young would slot in as the two starting middle linebackers in Baltimore next season. However, only the former appears to be set in stone, as Young may be headed for a training camp battle with former undrafted free agent Chris Board. After performing well on special teams last season, Board made a strong impression on the coaching staff throughout OTA’s and into minicamp.
Head coach John Harbaugh said both Board and Young were playing “like starters”, and that he envisions a three-man rotation opposite Onuwasor between them and Anthony Levine Sr. The battle for the starting job at MLB will certainly be a good one, but Young should be able to seize it, at least in theory. He saw meaningful playing time on defense last year and flashed a lot of upside and talent. Even if Board were to be listed as the “starter” ahead of him, the snaps would likely be split evenly between the two of them. Still, Young has a great opportunity to earn the starting role and doing so should be his primary goal between now and the start of the regular seasom.
2) Solidify coverage skills
One area where Young really showed potential last season was in pass coverage. His speed and agility permit him to make quick breaks on the ball in open space and disrupt potential completions. For several years, one of the Achilles’ heel of the Ravens defense has been their ability to defend opposing tight ends, or lack thereof. Same goes for shifty, pass-catching running backs, albeit to a lesser extent. For all of his strengths, pass defense was not one of Mosley’s strong suits. Young is probably already better in coverage than his predecessor but with an uptick in snaps coming his way, he’ll be tasked with a greater amount of coverage assignments. If Young can harness his speed and pursuit on a more consistent basis, he can potentially solve, or at least sure up, an area the Ravens have struggled in on the defensive side of the ball for quite some time.
3) Utilize his versatility
In addition to pass coverage, Young is also a capable pass-rusher. While he only recorded 2.5 sacks last season, Young showcased the ability to generate pressure up the middle at times. He also demonstrated his skills as a run-stopper, too. Simply put, Young’s athleticism is valuable in almost every defensive situation and it allows him to take on multiple roles. While not necessarily elite at any particular aspect of the game, at least not at this current stage in his career, Young’s versatility could be his calling card. Whether it’s dropping back in coverage, shadowing opposing running backs or blitzing, Young could emerge as a swiss army knife-type of a player in Don Martindale’s defensive scheme.
4) Force multiple fumbles and interceptions
“What I expect to do right from the get-go is compete hard and make plays. My expectation is to make plays. That’s it. Make plays,” was Young’s response to a question posed regarding his expectations for his second season. A self-proclaimed playmaker, Young has a great chance to build upon his numbers from last season, but more specifcally his turnover totals. Young forced a fumble but did not record an interception, and while that’s not necessarily an issue, the best type of “play” you can make as a defender is one that gives your offense the ball back. Young may not have the hands of a defensive back but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get his hands on an interception or two given his speed. Improving in the turnover department and being disruptive is a great way for Young to turn his expectation into reality.