John Harbaugh Has Confidence in Patrick Onwuasor, Kenny Young Stepping Up at ILB

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Worrying about the inside linebacker position isn't keeping Head Coach John Harbaugh awake, despite the loss of C.J. Mosley to the New York Jets.

Harbaugh knew the Ravens could lose Mosley during free agency, and they did. But he also knows linebackers Patrick "Peanut" Onwuasor and Kenny Young are talented and can build off what they accomplished in 2018.

Onwausor and Young's continued improvement would be one way to help counteract Mosley's departure.

"Those guys have to step up," Harbaugh said at the NFL Annual League Meetings in Phoenix. "It's kind of what we said before. We lost our starting All-Pro inside linebacker (Mosley). Good. We lost our rising star pass rusher from Kentucky (Za'Darius Smith). Good. We lost our 16-year veteran leader (Terrell Suggs). Probably a Hall of Famer. Good.

"We'll find a way and those guys are a big part of it. You got obviously Peanut, Kenny, and Chris Board. And whoever we add. Those guys have to step up and be guys. They've got to play special teams. They've got to play inside linebacker. But I feel really good about them, because I really like our defensive line and I really like our secondary. And I really like the fact that those guys play fast, and I think they're hungry. So let's go."

Onwuasor took a major step forward in his third NFL season, winning the starting inside linebacker job last season next to Mosley and becoming a defensive playmaker during the Ravens' run to the playoffs. His signature game was Week 16, a 22-10 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers that the Ravens desperately needed. With two sacks, nine tackles and a forced fumble, Onwuasor's performance against the Chargers earned him AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.

Onwuasor has a knack for getting to the quarterback on blitzes, something the Ravens may take more advantage of next season after losing Suggs and Smith.

Onwuasor was an undrafted free agent who converted from safety to linebacker at Portland State. Since joining the Ravens, he has steadily learned the nuances of playing linebacker and has become more adept at anticipating plays. Last season, Onwuasor was one of one the team's best open-field tacklers.

Young was a fourth-round pick in 2018 out of UCLA, and earned significant playing time as a rookie. While he lacks Mosley's experience, Young may be the team's fastest linebacker. 

It's possible the Ravens could seek help at inside linebacker in the draft, especially if Michigan inside linebacker Devin Bush is still available at No. 22. However, the Ravens got a glimpse of what a Onwuasor-Young starting inside linebacker combination would look like Week 3 against the Denver Broncos, when Mosley was sidelined with a knee injury. Young had 10 tackles, Onwuasor intercepted Broncos quarterback Case Keenum, and the Ravens rolled a 27-14 victory.

If Onwuasor and Young are the starters next season, the Ravens will hope for similar results.

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