"The Competition" is a series that breaks down every position battle leading up to training camp. Below are the outside linebackers:
Terrell Suggs (6-foot-3, 260 pounds, 13th season)
Elvis Dumervil (5-foot-11, 255 pounds, 10th season)
Courtney Upshaw (6-foot-2, 272 pounds, 4th season)
Steven Means (6-foot-2, 260 pounds, 2nd season)
Za'Darius Smith (6-foot-4, 275 pounds, 3rd round)
Brennan Beyer (6-foot-3, 266 pounds, undrafted)
Suggs still does it all on one side and that's not going to change. He's an every down player. Opposite of him, expect Dumervil and Upshaw to continue to split the load. The Ravens have allowed both players to do what they do best, as Upshaw's physicality dominated in the run game and Dumervil's nose for the quarterback led him to tie a career high 17 sacks last season.
Key Role Players
The role up for grabs is the one formerly held by Pernell McPhee, who signed a mega deal with the Chicago Bears this offseason. McPhee was mainly used as a third-down pass rusher with Suggs and Dumervil on passing downs, giving Baltimore a ferocious trio. Considering that McPhee played a big role last year, whoever fills that spot should see a lot of snaps.
Most Anticipated Battle
The battle for McPhee's 616 snaps is the one to watch. Upshaw, Smith and Means are the top contenders. Upshaw posted just three sacks in his first three seasons, but has grown as a pass rusher. With more opportunities, Upshaw could show the potential he flashed in college. He knows sacks will be a key part of his resume when he hits free agency next offseason. Smith flashed during Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and minicamp this summer. There's a reason he's been compared to McPhee, and for more than the physical resemblance. Means is the dark horse, but Head Coach John Harbaugh and General Manager Ozzie Newsome have both acknowledged his potential as a rusher.