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5 Things to Know About Zach Orr

Defensive Coordinator Zach Orr
Defensive Coordinator Zach Orr

The Ravens hired Zach Orr to be their new defensive coordinator Thursday, stepping into the position vacated by Mike Macdonald after his departure to Seattle.

Here's what all fans should know about Orr:

He's a former Ravens linebacker.

Orr signed with the Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 2014. He was a small school product out of North Texas but made the 53-man roster. Orr spent his rookie season almost exclusively on special teams, then earned more of a defensive role down the stretch of his second year.

He took over the starting weakside linebacker job entering the 2016 season, playing next to C.J. Mosley. Orr led the team with 132 tackles, including 7.5 for loss. He also had three interceptions, five passes defensed, one forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries. That earned him second-team All-Pro honors. His career was taking off.

His playing career ended prematurely.

Almost immediately after Orr's magical 2016 season, the Ravens medical staff discovered a congenital spine/neck condition that forced an early retirement at just 24 years old.

After making eight tackles and an interception in a Week 16 game in Pittsburgh, Orr suffered two herniated discs near the end of the game near the top of his vertebrae. That was a serious injury, but something Orr would be able to come back from.

However, at the urging of the Ravens, Orr had a head-to-toe CAT scan, which revealed the congenital condition for the first time. They told him he wouldn't be able to pass an NFL physical ever again. Orr announced his retirement on Jan. 20, 2017.

Orr wasn't quite ready to stop, however. He found two specialists who agreed he could attempt to play again, but Ozzie Newsome told him he would have to pass a physical to suit up for the Ravens again. Orr visited five other teams and interviewed with another 11 over the phone before retiring again on Aug. 18 with a piece written in The Players' Tribune entitled "Always a Raven." Orr wrote that a doctor ultimately told him he could "die on the spot" if he took one hit the wrong way.

He comes from a football family.

Orr's father, Terry Orr, was an eight-year tight end for the Washington Redskins (1986-1993). The 10th-round pick out of the University of Texas played in 105 games and caught 52 passes for 939 yards and 10 touchdowns. He was a two-time Super Bowl champion (XXII, XXVI).

Zach has three brothers who all played football at high levels. His older brother, Terrance, played defensive back at Texas State and is now an offensive coordinator at a Texas high school. His younger brother, Nick, played safety at TCU and was signed by the Chicago Bears as an undrafted free agent in 2018. His youngest brother, Chris, was a linebacker at Wisconsin who played for the Carolina Panthers in 2020 and currently plays for the Birmingham Stallions of the United Football League.

"We weren't really normal," Zach said in an ESPN story. "We didn't sit around and watch cartoons. We wanted to watch old football films. We'd study tape without knowing we were studying tape."

He's progressed quickly as a coach.

It didn't take Orr long to decide he wanted to go into coaching. He took a job as a coaching and personnel assistant from 2017-2018, then was promoted to defensive coaching analyst in 2019-2020. He got his first position coaching job following Joe Cullen to Jacksonville, where he coached the Jaguars' outside linebackers in 2021.

When Urban Meyer's staff was dismantled, Orr came back to Baltimore as Macdonald's inside linebackers coach. This year, he helped both Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen be named to the Pro Bowl.

He's young, but experienced.

At 31 years old, Orr will be the second-youngest defensive coordinator in the NFL, only trailing the Arizona Cardinals' Nick Rallie, 30.

When Macdonald was hired two years ago, he was the league's youngest coordinator at 34. Now Orr is well below that.

However, Orr is entering his eighth year of coaching in the NFL, and he's extremely familiar with the Ravens' defensive system from playing and coaching in it.

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