As Head Coach John Harbaugh walked out of the Ravens locker room late Thursday night at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, he saw a group of reporters crowded around linebacker Kamalei Correa.
Harbaugh smiled and said he liked to see it.
A second-round pick in 2016, Correa hasn't gotten much positive attention the past two years. As he enters his third season, he needs to emerge and he needs to do it fast.
Correa got off to a good start in Baltimore's preseason debut. He was the best player on the field, racking up three sacks, one interception, a team-high six tackles and two passes defensed. Correa was everywhere.
"What a great game, huh?" Harbaugh said. "It was great to see him break out. This young man has been killing himself – work ethic, attention to detail, very determined. To see it pay off like that, a coach loves to see that."
The 2016 second-round pick didn't see much defensive action as a rookie, playing in nine games (one start) and making four tackles.
Last year, Baltimore moved him to inside linebacker and gave him a shot at the starting job. Correa won it originally, but undrafted linebacker Patrick Onwuasor wrestled it away after three games. Correa finished his sophomore campaign with 15 tackles.
After last season, Correa asked his coaches if he could shift his focus back to the outside. He learned how to play inside, which added to his versatility, but felt more natural coming off the edge, where he played in college.
When Correa was drafted out of Boise State, he and the Ravens talked about getting a heat-seeking missile. He sees the ball and he attacks whoever has it. Trying to diagnose plays, read and react slowed him down. Back outside, he can hunt again.
Correa has clearly looked more explosive and aggressive coming off the edge this offseason. The 6-foot-3, 249-pound Hawaii native has uncommon athleticism.
"If it's outside or inside, as long as I'm on the field, it really doesn't matter," Correa said. "I'm just trying to help this team win in any way possible."
Correa still has a lot of competition when it comes to making the 53-man roster and getting regular reps on the Ravens defense. The Ravens' starting outside linebackers are Terrell Suggs and Matthew Judon. Behind them, there's Za'Darius Smith, Tyus Bowser, Tim Williams and Correa.
Correa's versatility greatly helps his case. What will help even more is more games like the one he had in Canton.
"It just felt great to be back out there with my teammates again, flying around," Correa said. "I'm blessed, man."
Check out the action from the Ravens' preseason opener against the Chicago Bears in Canton, Ohio.