We're Witnessing the Emergence of the Ravens' Next Great Linebacker


C.J. Mosley had just returned an interception 63 yards for a touchdown when he sidled up next to outside linebacker Terrell Suggs.

"Hey, guess what," Mosley said. "I passed you in interceptions."

"No way," the 15-year veteran responded. "How many you got?"

In his fourth season, Mosley now has eight career interceptions. He currently ranks third in the NFL in tackles (68) and also got a half-sack in the 40-0 win over the Miami Dolphins.

Playing in a city renowned for its legendary linebackers, including Ray Lewis, Peter Boulware and Suggs, Ravens fans can appreciate the fact that they're witnessing the next great one emerge.

"He's 'Half Man, Half Amazing,'" Suggs said this week, as if that's the only explanation needed.

"C.J. has done some great things, and he's getting better and better every time he takes the field, coming into his own. That's what we're known for here. But C.J.'s play kind of speaks for itself."

Mosley has gone to two Pro Bowls in his first three years. He was the first-ever Ravens rookie to earn Pro Bowl honors, and finished second to Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald in the 2014 Defensive Rookie of the Year voting.

Now halfway through his fourth season, Mosley may be at his best, and continues to prove to be one of the game's top all-around inside linebackers. Even the Ravens' opponent Sunday, Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota, sees it.

"He's playing at a very high level," Mariota said. "He really kind of runs that defense."

Mosley is one of only three defenders in the league to have at least 400 tackles, five interceptions and five sacks since he came into the league in 2014, joining Carolina's Luke Kuechly and Jacksonville's Telvin Smith.

Mosley said he of course wants to be known as one of the best linebackers in the league, but he's not too big on individual awards. He's likely not too far off from a big individual reward, however.

Kuechly is the second-highest paid inside linebacker in the game. Smith and the Jaguars agreed to a four-year contract extension worth a reported $50 million last week. Mosley's rookie contract will expire after next season, and he expects to be in Baltimore for* *a long time.

Asked if he ever thinks about becoming the next face of the Ravens* *defense, Mosley said not in the moment, but "that is definitely where it is heading."

"I am proud to be in that position," he continued. "I hope I stay in that position for a long time here because I love it here. … As long as I just keep doing things right on the field and off the field, it looks like it is going to be that way."

Mosley does it all on the field, and he does it consistently at a high level.

When the Ravens were without Brandon Williams for four games, Mosley tried to bridge the gap in run defense. Baltimore had its struggles, but not because of Mosley. He made 37 tackles in the four games with Williams sidelined.

Entering last week, Mosley led the NFL in tackles. He's now third behind Washington's Zach Brown and Cleveland's Joe Schobert.

"He has a nose for the football," Titans Head Coach Mike Mularkey said. "And I'll say this: He is about as good as there is in the league from what I've watched on tape of shedding blockers and getting off blocks and making plays."

With Williams back dominating against the Dolphins last week, Mosley flashed the other part of his game: his pass defense.

He has great instincts for the game and where he needs to be in coverage. Last Thursday, he came underneath to pick off quarterback Matt Moore and outraced the Dolphins 63 yards to the end zone. Mosley nearly had a game-breaking pick-six against the Washington Redskins last season, but he fumbled at the 1-yard line after injuring his hamstring during the return.

Mosley said the biggest difference in his game this year is that he's healthy (this time, his hamstring held up during the touchdown return) and he's in better shape. He feels more able to get everywhere on the field. Mosley has played all but four defensive snaps this season.

"I'm seeing a good linebacker playing linebacker very well," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "He's a very instinctive player. I think he's a great athlete, obviously. He kind of [has] a prototype physique for the position, talent for the position. He's playing really well."

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