With training camp fast approaching, we're breaking down each position's competition. Today we look at inside linebackers.
In the Hunt
- Otaro Alaka, rookie
- Chris Board, second season
- E. J. Ejiya, rookie
- Alvin Jones, second season
- Patrick Onwuasor, fourth season
- Silas Stewart, rookie
- Matthew Thomas, second season
- Kenny Young, second season
Onwuasor will fill the crucial role once held by four-time Pro Bowler C.J. Mosley, who signed with the New York Jets during free agency. The transition from weak side to middle linebacker appeared to go smoothly for Onwuasor during OTAs, as he embraced the added responsibility of relaying defensive signals to teammates and becoming more vocal. Second-year linebackers Kenny Young and Chris Board are expected to split time lining up opposite Onwuasor, and the Ravens are counting on them to step up. Young and Board will be competing for reps, and at mandatory minicamp, Head Coach John Harbaugh expressed confidence in both.
The competition between Young and Board will be interesting. The Ravens hope it will push both players to new heights. Mosley was an extraordinarily consistent player, but Young and Board are part of the transition to a potentially faster defense.
Board is another example of a Ravens undrafted free agent who has blossomed into a key contributor. He excelled on special teams last year and has the speed and size (he added seven to eight pounds of muscle) to be part of many different defensive groupings. Young, a fourth-round pick a year ago, competed with Onwuasor for a starting job last year and started three games early in the year. He also flies to the ball and is intent on making more splash plays this season.
Under the Radar
At least one undrafted free agent has made the Ravens' 53-man roster for 15 straight seasons, and it has often been an inside linebacker. Keep an eye on Otaro Alaka, an undrafted rookie from Texas A&M, who made some impressive plays during OTAs. Alaka was a college teammate of Ravens fifth-round pick, defensive tackle Daylon Mack. If Alaka shows ability to be a special-teams contributor, it will only increase his chance to make the roster. North Texas' E.J. Ejiya and Incarnate Word's Silas Stewart are two other undrafted free agents to watch.