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The Competition: Outside Linebackers


Heading into the first practice, will offer previews of each position, focusing on who will be in the thick of the competition come training camp. Today, the outside linebackers take the spotlight.

The job of an outside linebacker is difficult, but the Ravens have a long history of drafting and developing players that possess those qualities key to the position.

Such a prospect generally needs to have the strength to take on offensive tackles with a hand in the dirt, but fast enough to keep up with a tight end or slot receiver when dropping in coverage.

One look at Baltimore's roster over the past few years and highlights are obvious; Adalius Thomas, Terrell Suggs and Jarret Johnson are some of the more recent standouts.

The Ravens think they have a strong core of talented backups that can make an impact in the future, with Antwan Barnes, Prescott Burgess and Edgar Jones making an impact during offseason minicamps.

Dan Cody desperately wants to add his name to that list.

Since he was the 53rd-overall pick out of the 2005 draft, devastating injuries have limited him to only playing in two games. He shredded his anterior cruciate ligament in his first ever training camp practice, an injury that shelved him that entire year, and then limited his performance the following season. Last season, he waited on the physically unable to perform list until Week 9, when knee and foot injuries again landed him on Injured Reserve.

Still, he has remained committed to returning to the field and fulfilling on the promise a stellar All-American career at Oklahoma predicted, tirelessly working out at Ravens headquarters to enter next week's training camp at 100 percent.

"I think the biggest thing is getting over these injuries," Cody said at a minicamp in June. "You have to learn the game over a little bit, to some degree. But we've been practicing for seven or eight weeks now, so now that I'm back on the field I feel like my old self."

That's just what the Ravens want to hear. At a full 6-foot-5, 255 pounds, Cody cuts an imposing figure on the field. And, he displayed a solid burst when rushing the passer, taking advantage of his speed against bigger offensive linemen.

"I feel like I've been able to take a few shots here and there and body up with some bigger guys," he said. "The injuries are behind me now. It's just part of it. When you get hurt so many times in a row you feel like you're jinxed, but it's behind me now."

The Ravens will certainly welcome Cody's efforts if he can continue to develop in training camp. He'll be one of the few injured veterans to report on Monday as a "special invitee," beginning his fourth attempt at becoming a regular contributor.

"We all know he's got great energy, and when he's healthy, this guy can really play," noted defensive coordinator Rex Ryan. "We're finally seeing [that]. He is healthy now, and hopefully – knock on everything – he stays that way."

Here is a breakdown of the outside linebackers on Baltimore's roster:

Terrell Suggs

2007:"T-Sizzle" started all 16 games for the third time in his career, finishing fourth on the squad with a career-high 95 tackles, including a team-leading five sacks. Suggs' seven passes defensed showed his maturation as a multi-faceted linebacker, not just a pass rusher.

Forecast:Suggs is one of the most disruptive players in getting to opposing quarterbacks, and he can only keep getting better in coverage. The 25-year-old will be a key member of the Ravens' defense, and even though he will end the year as an unrestricted free agent, expect him to sign a long-term deal in Baltimore soon after the finale.

Jarret Johnson

2007:In his first year as a full-time starter, Johnson logged all 16 contests, posting 94 tackles. He even did it while gutting out a broken thumb for most of the campaign. "Double J" had a career game against the New York Jets, posting a personal high of 11 stops.

Forecast:The tough, physical athlete will again line up to Ray Lewis' right and have even more opportunities to grow. His solid work ethic is bound to rub off on some of the younger prospects in the locker room, as well.

Antwan Barnes

2007:Barnes played much of the season as only a special teams player, but the Ravens began to unleash the linebacker more and more as it waned. The fourth-round draft pick posted eight tackles from scrimmage, along with two sacks.

Forecast:Barnes may only be 6-foot-1, 240 pounds, but he is a fury coming off the ball, using his speed to get into the backfield in a hurry. He should earn more playing time in a crowded position group, definitely on regular third downs, but perhaps even more if he improves on his coverage skills.

Prescott Burgess

2007:It was an early exit for Burgess, who saw action in eight games as a rookie before joining IR with a hip injury on Nov. 14. The Michigan alumnus netted seven special teams tackles.

Forecast:Burgess' special teams abilities are evident, and his teammates have been talking about the big hits he can lay from scrimmage. He will be a valuable asset, but roster numbers could see him on the practice squad when the season begins.

Edgar Jones

2007:After making the team as an undrafted free agent, Jones spent part of the season on the practice squad. He did get in four contests, recording five tackles and a sack.

Forecast:Whether Jones actually lines up part time at tight end – as he did in minicamps – will depend on the health of Daniel Wilcox and other tight end prospects. But, Jones is another player that could start out on the practice squad. He has been working out tirelessly at the team facility nearly every day this spring and summer.

Dan Cody

2007:Cody spent the first nine weeks on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list before a knee injury kept him on Injured Reserve.

Forecast:Entering his fourth year, Cody must show coaches and team officials that he can stay healthy and make it through an entire training camp unscathed. The Ravens know he has potential, but 2005 is a long time to wait for it to blossom.

Gary Stills

2007:Regarded primarily as a special teams performer, Stills took the field in all 16 games, leading the team with 26 special teams tackles and one forced fumble. With the defense, he notched three tackles and a sack.

Forecast:Stills remains one of the elite special teamers in the NFL. But, if he can't offer more from scrimmage, it will come down to remaining roster spots, considering the Ravens signed special teams standout Brendon Ayanbadejo as a free agent this offseason.

Brendon Ayanbadejo

2007:As a Chicago Bear, Ayanbadejo was selected to his second-consecutive Pro Bowl after appearing in all 16 contests, leading the Bears with 26 special teams stops and one tackle from scrimmage. He also collected three or more special teams tackles in six games.

Forecast:It's obvious that Ayanbadejo is at the top of the game on special teams, which could make for a blockbuster pairing with Stills if the roster aligns that way. It wouldn't be expected to see him on the field regularly with the linebacking corps, however, unless he blows minds during the preseason.

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