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State of the Ravens: Linebackers

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State of the Ravens LBs

Thanks for coming back for Day 7 of State of the Ravens! If you missed Day 6, make sure to check it out here. And catch up on the entire rest of the State of the Ravens series here.

Today, we go up a level of the defense, and cover the linebacker room, which should thrive in Zach Orr’s system. Fans remember that Orr was an All-Pro Ravens linebacker himself before his career was cut short due to injury. He worked his way up the coaching totem pole in Baltimore before serving as the linebackers coach last year and ascending to defensive coordinator in 2024. And it’s clear that the players have a great deal of respect for the player-turned-coach.

Roquan Smith has raved about the work Orr has put into the defense, even admitting that he didn’t completely understand the complex new scheme the first time around. But, it became evident during minicamp that the work is paying off. Ro was giddy about the new blitz packages Orr has implemented for the linebackers, and one could only describe them as “exotic.” Now, the Ravens probably won’t get too blitz-happy in the new system, but everyone seems excited about what the new looks could mean for the defense in 2024.

Perhaps there will be no bigger beneficiary of the new scheme than the linebackers, given Orr’s background and the defense’s fresh packages. But first, we have to look at who the Ravens have available at that position:

Depth Chart

Roquan Smith — Trenton SimpsonChris BoardJohn Ross

Let’s start at the top. Roquan Smith is a known quantity at this point. At the very worst, he’s a top-2 linebacker in the league, and there’s a real argument to be made for him being #1. En route to an All-Pro 2023, he logged 158 total tackles and forced multiple turnovers while patrolling the defensive middle. And, with the absence of the often-blitzed Patrick Queen, I think his numbers could go up this year, especially in the sack department. Opposing offenses know and fear #0, and it’s huge to have that type of security in the middle of the field.

Sitting behind Smith is second-year pro Trenton Simpson out of Clemson, who mainly rode the bench last season but shined in his lone start. In Week 18 against Pittsburgh, he posted seven total tackles (two for loss) and a sack. I truly believe that the future is bright for this man, and I’ve been impressed with him for a while. When researching colleges a couple years ago, I somehow stumbled upon a day-in-the-life video featuring Simpson, and I was amazed at the manner in which he conducts himself seemingly every day. Plus, he was the first one to welcome rookie corner Nate Wiggins to Baltimore and was the one to give him a tour of the Castle. He’s really a good kid, and the Ravens know it. Coaches have raved about his work ethic; even though he didn’t start until the last week of the regular season, Simpson prepared for each and every game as if he was going to be LB1. And, according to Orr, he’s taken his preparation game to a whole new level this offseason while being as intense as ever on the field. Big things are in store for this guy, and he’s certainly earned his opportunity.

Heading further down the depth chart, we arrive at Chris Board and John Ross. Board is a true special teams ace, and he returns to Baltimore after stints in Detroit and New England. Plus, he’s familiar with this team, having been a Raven from 2018 through 2021, and will bring more veteran leadership to the locker room. Ross, on the other hand, is a UDFA out of Michigan who didn’t see much action in 2023. However, the coaching staff must’ve seen something in him to give him a roster spot after training camp, and you better believe that Orr (an undrafted free agent himself) is going to give Ross every opportunity to succeed. Watch for his involvement to tick up this fall as the Ravens look to develop him into a true contributor on the defensive side of the ball.

Three-Year Plan

The Ravens are set for the next three seasons at the top of the depth chart, with Smith under contract through 2027 and Simpson through ’26. I wouldn’t be surprised if EDC drafted a late-round linebacker next year to compete with Ross to be the LB3 of the future.

That’s a wrap for Day 7. Make sure to come back for coverage of a unit with a brand new look in 2024: cornerbacks.

The post State of the Ravens: Linebackers appeared first on Russell Street Report.


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