C.J. Mosley was a Pro Bowler in his rookie year. While he didn't get repeat honors last year, he was still a tackling monster with 117 stops and four sacks.
So what's the next step in Mosley's maturation?
In Year 3, Mosley is focusing on his pass coverage. In order to be a better all-around linebacker, he needs to make more plays in the passing game.
"I feel like I've done the things I'm supposed to do right – made tackles, made plays and coming down on blocks," Mosley said. "My biggest thing going into the preseason is try to make more explosive plays – interceptions, pass breakups, coming out on pressure and sacks, those types of things."
The third-year linebacker had eight passes defensed and two interceptions as a rookie. Last year, he broke up seven passes and had zero interceptions. He also found himself too often trailing behind a tight end streaking across the field in front or behind him.
Now Mosley is making a switch from the WILL linebacker spot to MIKE linebacker, which puts him more in the middle of the defense. It was the position manned by Daryl Smith for the past three seasons. Mosley said he feels like he can see more of the field from his new spot, and he wants to emulate Smith's pass coverage.
While Smith's coverage skills started to erode last year, he was stellar in that area previously. Smith notched 18 passes defensed and three interceptions in 2013.
"He was just great at knowing route concepts, breaking up balls and having a lot of pass interceptions," Mosley said.
So how does he go about doing that?
"Knowing the routes, seeing things faster and being able to break on balls," Mosley said. "Just having that quick explosiveness just to get there one step quicker so you can have a chance to make that play."
Mosley said he's already noticed an improvement in practice. He feels like he's been making more plays.
Head Coach John Harbaugh said strong coverage comes with experience.
"Ray [Lewis] was like that," Harbaugh said. "The great linebackers, it's like they have eyes in the back of their head. They know the routes that are running behind them; they can see the routes, somehow, without even looking at them. That's where C.J. is working to get to."
Mosley is studying formations, route combinations and the backfield actions that tie those things together. Harbaugh said he's "doing a really good job with it."
"He's smart, and obviously, we have high, high hopes and big expectations for him," Harbaugh said.
As a first-round pick in 2014, Mosley needs to become an anchor in Baltimore's defense as stars such as Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil approach the ends of their careers. Mosley said he hasn't done too much in terms of assuming more leadership.
"C.J. continues to improve," Harbaugh said. "C.J. is quiet, no nonsense, comes to work every day and does his best. He didn't practice that much in the spring, so I think he's really knocking a little rust off. The last couple of days, you start seeing what you expect to see from C.J."
Go inside Ravens training camp practice Monday morning.