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Is Dannell Ellerbe The Ravens' X-Factor?

Posted Jan 19, 2013


The media spotlight is on Ray Lewis.

But the most important defender on the field Sunday in New England may be the man next to him – inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe.

Ellerbe will likely be the player tasked with winning some very challenging coverage matchups against the likes of wide receiver Wes Welker, running back Danny Woodhead and running back Shane Vereen.

“They’re really tough matchups,” Ellerbe said.

“But then again I’ve had these matchups all year and played these guys a couple times. I pretty much know what to expect with these guys.”

Vereen crushed the Texans’ inside linebackers last Sunday in the divisional round, catching five passes for 83 yards and two touchdowns, including a 33-yard pass in which he simply outran Barrett Ruud.

“It was a matchup we were hoping to get,” Vereen said. “Everything lined up right and Tom [Brady] threw a perfect pass.”

Ellerbe is tied for the second-most tackles of any player in this year’s postseason (18). He only trails fellow inside linebacker Ray Lewis (30). But between Ellerbe and Lewis, the younger linebacker will likely be the one asked to go into coverage more often.

Ellerbe was in coverage in Denver when running back Knowshon Moreno caught a 14-yard touchdown pass. Ellerbe was fairly tight on Moreno, but it was a perfect throw and catch, something the Ravens can expect more of from Brady and his targets.

It’s not just Vereen that Ellerbe has to be concerned with. Cornerback Corey Graham will likely be matched up with Welker, but if the veteran wideout comes over the middle, Ellerbe could be called on to help.

“I see everybody,” Ellerbe said. “Everybody is coming across the middle and everybody is lining up in the slot.”

Head Coach John Harbaugh and teammates expressed confidence in Ellerbe’s coverage skills. Harbaugh said Ellerbe understands coverages and how to match different route patterns and progressions to what coverage should be applied.

“He’s just a really good coverage linebacker,” Harbaugh said.

Then there’s Ellerbe’s athleticism, which generally allows him to match up against a wide variety of players.

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