clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Ravens 2021 Position Review: Inside Linebackers

After a rough start and a key veteran addition, the group played better in the second half of the season.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Las Vegas Raiders Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

After a turbulent 2021 season that was ravaged and ultimately derailed by injuries, the Baltimore Ravens are completely focused on moving forward. Before we fully turn the page to the 2022 offseason, let’s look back at the overall performance of their inside linebacker position group from this last year.

Patrick Queen

Minnesota Vikings v Baltimore Ravens

2021 stats: 17 games, 17 starts, 98 total tackles, 10 tackles for loss, two sacks, three quarterbacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, and one pass deflection.

The 2020 first-round pick came into 2021 with hopes of making a second-year leap following a strong rookie campaign, where he led the team in tackles and made several splash plays. After a rough and inconsistent start to the season, a reduced role and move from the MIKE to the WILL spot helped him turn his season around.

Once Queen got back on track, he started seeing more snaps and returned to his usual playmaking self in the second half of the season. While he still has a lot more room for improvement when it comes to his ability in coverage, he regularly made physical stops at and behind the line of scrimmage.

Josh Bynes

Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

2021 stats: 14 games, 12 starts, 76 total tackles, six tackles for loss, two sacks, three quarterback hits, and four pass deflections.

For the second time in the last three seasons, the 11-year veteran came to the rescue and stabilized the Ravens inside linebacker position after a poor start to the year. Bynes’ presence allowed Queen in particular to hit the reset button a struggle-filled first four games. Bynes’ play recognition and speed were big contributors to the team’s top-ranked rush defense and he also made some clutch plays in the passing game.

Malik Harrison

Baltimore Ravens vs Detroit Lions Photo by Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

2021 stats: 14 games, five starts, 25 total tackles, two tackles for loss, 171 defensive snaps, and 289 special teams snaps.

All of Malik Harrison’s starts came in the first five weeks of the season before he was replaced in the starting lineup by Bynes after Queen slid over to the WILL spot. The 2020 third-round pick was struck by a stray bullet during the bye week and missed multiple games. After he was removed from the Non-Football Injury List, he only played one defensive snap from Weeks 12-18. He almost exclusively played on special teams down the stretch and recorded just two total tackles.

The Ravens are likely still holding out hope that Queen and Harrison can develop into the next great inside linebacker tandem but it also wouldn’t be surprising if the team brought in more competition via free agency or the draft.

Kristian Welch

Los Angeles Chargers v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

2021 stats: 16 games, 13 total tackles, one pressure, one hurry, 32 defensive snaps, and 382 special teams snaps.

The 2020 undrafted free agent had an identical season to Harrison in that he predominantly played on special teams throughout the year. However, Welch received more defensive snaps down the stretch after being on the field for just one in the first 10 games of the year.

While he never saw more than 10 snaps on defense in 2021, he showed that he can not only handle himself well but also make plays against the run. Being a core special teams player and being able to make contributions on defense are traits the Ravens value in all their defenders including select starters.

Chris Board

Baltimore Ravens v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

2021 stats: 16 games, 41 total tackles, two quarterback hits, 337 defensive snaps, and 382 special teams snaps.

The fourth-year pro got his most extensive playing time on defense and special teams in 2021 and recorded the most tackles in a single season to date. When he entered the game on defense, it was often on third down or in obvious passing situations where he covered tight ends, running backs, and sometimes even wide receivers over the middle of the field.

If he is re-signed by the Ravens this offseason, Board could replace the recently-retired Anthony Levine Sr. as the “captain” of their special teams and still see the field consistently on defense.