The Baltimore Ravens have a knack for bringing in undrafted free agent linebackers and turning them into stars. They’ve done so with Bart Scott, Jameel McClain, Zachary Orr and Patrick Onwausor. The question the Ravens are now asking themselves is whether UDFA linebacker Josh Ross, who played under Ravens Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald last season with the Michigan Wolverines could become the next in line?
So far, all signs point to yes, with Ross receiving the highest grade (93.0) among all defensive players to play a minimum of 20% of snaps this preseason, according to Pro Football Focus. The biggest reason for the ‘elite’ overall grade has been Ross’ coverage grade, coming in at 91.5. It’s no surprise Macdonald cited Ross’ coverage being the area he’s improved the most.
“I would say his coverage ability, his reactions are faster, rather than just being in the middle and playing from the ‘Mike’ position,” Macdonald said. “So, really all aspects of his game, but there’s growth all the way around.”
Macdonald also praised how Ross has approached the game and what Ross meant to him in Michigan last season.
“[Josh] is just a ... He’s a mature, serious - but in the right way - thoughtful, very energetic, attacks everything that he goes about,” Macdonald said. “Really, he’s one of the favorite players at Michigan that I’ve coached on a day-to-day basis. So, he deserves a lot of credit for the position he’s put himself in.”
The importance of players in Macdonald’s defense has been discussed heavily this offseason, with the buzzword being “versatility.” If that’s what Ross needs to be on the roster, it sounds as if he has a leg up.
“Well, he’s playing both positions, which is harder than people might imagine,” Macdonald said. “‘Mike,’ ‘Will,’ ‘Dime’ ... all those things. He was just playing the ‘Mike’ spot for us last year.
Of course, a depth player on most rosters must be a part of special teams and with the Ravens there may be a greater significance. Special Teams Coordinator Chris Horton said Ross has performed well in his reps.
“Josh has done a good job for us,” Horton said. “He’s physical, he plays the way we wwant to see him play football. He’s been a guy that can pick up the information, and take it, not only from the classroom to the practice field, but also in the games. That’s really important for a young guy in order to make his way on this team. So, he’s been doing an awesome job.”
There’s a week until rosters are cut down to 53 players. It’s becoming more likely Ross is going to make the roster, seeing as he’s playing great football at one of the thinnest positions on the roster and specializing in a trait the Ravens need to improve. All that’s left for Ross is to deliver a great game for the third-straight preseason game and deter any doubt the coaching staff and front office may have.