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Courtney Upshaw Could Expand Into Pass Rusher

Posted Mar 23, 2013

OLB Courtney Upshaw was 'dominant' on the edge, but notched just 1.5 sacks.

Courtney Upshaw had quite a successful rookie season.

He immediately stepped in as an edge-setter against the run, taking over for departed outside linebacker Jarret Johnson. The second-round pick started nine of 16 regular-season games and in Super Bowl XLVII, where he forced a first-half fumble.

"I think we got everything from Courtney that we could've hoped for being a first-year guy," Head Coach John Harbaugh said at the owners meetings.

But there was one thing missing from Upshaw's game: sacks.

Upshaw recorded 9.5 sacks his senior year at Alabama. He had seven the year before. But he notched just 1.5 sacks in his first season in the NFL.

According to Pro Football Focus, Upshaw generated quarterback pressure on just 6.9 percent of his snaps. But part of that was because he wasn't in that role.

With top sack artist Paul Kruger (the player Upshaw shared his outside linebacker position with) bouncing to Cleveland, Upshaw could be in line for more sack opportunities, especially if the Ravens don't sign a free agent pass rusher.

"I think as a pass rusher, he didn't get quite the opportunity with Paul doing so well, and when Terrell Suggs came back," Harbaugh said. "But he's going to have to expand that role for us as a pass rusher. And I know one thing, he's excited to do it."

Instead, Upshaw contributed in other ways to the Ravens defense. Harbaugh said he played "really well" in the regular package.

"He was really dominant on the edge, a very physical player," Harbaugh said. "He'll continue to grow in that area. He surprised me with how well he dropped into coverage. He's got a good knack [for that]. These Alabama guys, they're well coached and they've got a good feel for the game, so he was a much better pass dropper."

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