When C.J. Mosley signed a record-breaking deal with the New York Jets in free agency, the focus on the linebacker position in Baltimore immediately intensified. Initial assumption had Patrick Onwuasor stepping into Mosley’s role as the primary signal-caller in the middle of the field and second-year man Kenny Young transitioning into a starting role.
The former of which has in fact come to fruition, but the latter scenario has yet to gain much traction. A rising sophomore linebacker is in fact set to slide into a starting job next year but it’s Chris Board, not Kenny Young.
After going undrafted out of North Dakota State and getting scooped up by the Ravens, Board found his niche on the 53-man roster last season as a special teams ace. Board only played 14 defensive snaps last year but that number is set to increase exponentially, as the 24-year old’s stock is on the rise this offseason.
Board has risen atop the depth chart at linebacker alongside “Peanut” and currently has a solid hold on the starting job. This isn’t to say Young has been playing bad in training camp, as he hasn’t - Board has just been outperforming him up this point.
From a spectator perspective, it’s a bit difficult to jump aboard the Chris Board hype train simply because we’ve yet to see him take on an extended defensive role. Still, the coaching staff continues to rave about him and recent history would suggest he has a great chance to become an impact player in Baltimore.
The Ravens have a history of developing undrafted linebackers, and Board has been touted as next in-line. Between Bart Scott, Zach Orr, Jameel McClain and Patrick Onuwasor, the Ravens have gotten some really good seasons out of UDFA’s at the position. Their ability to find diamonds in the rough and turn them into starters is impressive.
On the surface, Board certainly fits the mold to continue this tradition. He himself recognizes the position he’s in and lineage of the position in Baltimore, as he demonstrated when addressing the media after last Saturday’s practice.
Few, if any, expected Board to seize the starting linebacker job, but that’s exactly what is happening. Props to him for making the most of his opportunity and running away with the competition. Will he suddenly become an every-down player? No - Kenny Young and Anthony Levine Sr. are going to rotate in at linebacker in routine sub-packages.
That’s okay, though. For Board, it’s all about seizing the moment and doing what is asked of him - playing fast, pursuing the ball, taking on coverage assignments, etc. It sounds like a lot, but the Ravens are clearly confident in his ability to step up to the challenge.
He now has over a year of experience in Don “Wink” Martindale’s system, which is important given the level of communication and cohesiveness involved in it. Is Board going to become C.J. Mosley? Certainly not. However, with Onwuasor taking over the play-calling duties in the middle, Board can focus primarily on making plays.
The Ravens are giving Board an opportunity and so far, he’s making the most of it and then some. How he acclimates himself to an increased role come regular season remains to be seen but based on what we’ve seen from him throughout OTA’s, minicamp, and training camp, there appears to be little reason to worry.