The biggest defensive plays of the Ravens’ 2018 season came from inside linebackers.
When C.J. Mosley leaped to tip and intercept Baker Mayfield’s pass in Week 17, it gave the Ravens the AFC North title. When Patrick Onwuasor punched the ball out of Antonio Gates’ grasp the week before, it sealed an epic win in Los Angeles.
Now Mosley is gone and the Ravens are looking for another playmaker next to Onwuasor in the middle of their defense. Second-year linebacker Kenny Young believes he’s just the man for the job.
“I’m not going to make expectations for myself so soon, but what I expect to do right from the get-go is compete hard and make plays,” Young said. “My expectation is to make plays. That’s it. Make plays.”
A fourth-round pick out of UCLA, Young had a strong rookie season, playing in all 16 games with four starts. He registered 51 tackles, 2.5 sacks and once forced fumble.
Young was an immediate contributor. He had a sack in his first NFL game and started for the first time in just his third game, in which he logged 10 tackles. But, eventually, Onwuasor claimed the starting job and the majority of the snaps.
Head Coach John Harbaugh made it clear that Onwuasor will be a starter in 2019, taking over Mosley’s role and likely his high snap count as well. Young and fellow second-year linebacker Chris Board, an undrafted rookie last year, will compete for the other spot and will likely share the role.
“I think Chris Board is playing like a starter. I also think Kenny Young is playing like a starter,” Harbaugh said. “Those guys are playing really, really fast.
“I would be anticipating us to play with a three-man rotation in there, with ‘Peanut’ [Onwuasor] taking all the reps and those other two guys playing packages with Anthony Levine.”
Young is a super speedy linebacker who is adept moving in any direction. He can drop in coverage, charge the line of scrimmage and track down ball carriers from sideline to sideline.
His biggest adjustment, he said, was the mental part of the game.
“I think the game is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical. If you can get the game worked out in your mind, you’re going to be a great player in this league,” Young said.
“As far as awareness wise, I feel like I’m lightyears ahead of where I need to be. And the credit for that goes to the coaches. I’m way more prepared than I’ve ever been in my entire football career. Things are slower for me.”
Young said his focus will continue to be on understanding schemes and how the offense is trying to attack the defense. “It’s about ironing out the details to take it to another level,” he said.
When Mosley signed with the New York Jets, Young sent him a congratulatory text message. Young said Mosley responded with something like, “You and Peanut take over.”
“I was shocked,” Young said. “I thought he was going to be the Tom Brady of our defense, sign the next contract and stay with us and be the face of this defense. It’s a business, that’s one thing I learned from it. I’m trying to be the next man up.”