When the players packed up their lockers at the end of the last season, inside linebacker Zachary Orr made it known he had eyes on a bigger role for 2016.
"I'm shooting for a starting spot," he said in January.
Orr made that declaration even before the Ravens parted ways with veteran linebacker Daryl Smith, the team's leading tackler. The Ravens cut Smith two months later, opening the starting linebacker spot next to C.J. Mosley, and Orr has made a strong case to earn that job.
The former undrafted prospect from North Texas consistently took reps with the first-team defense throughout the offseason program, and he enters training camp in a tight competition with a pair of second-round picks.
"That's something I strive for – to be a starter in this league," Orr said. "It's good that it's finally here, to have an opportunity, and I have to take advantage of it."
Orr will have to beat out Arthur Brown and rookie Kamalei Correa if he's going to earn the job, and the Ravens gave all three of them a strong look during offseason practices.
Correa was the 42nd overall draft pick this year, and he's a versatile linebacker who can move all over the defense. Brown was the No. 56 pick in 2013, and he's been waiting for his opportunity to get on the field.
"We have great competition," Orr said. "Anybody in the room that we have right now can definitely be a starter. And whoever wins the job deserves it. They're not going to let me beat them out, and I'm not going to let them beat me out."
Orr is entering his third season in Baltimore, and he's earned his place on the roster by excelling on special teams the last two years. He proved early in his rookie year that he deserved to be in the lineup – he has played in all but one game the last two years – and coaches have continued to pile more on his plate.
By the end of last season, Orr was a regular substitute for Smith on passing downs. Orr finished the year with 22 tackles, a sack and a pass defensed in limited action. It was a solid audition to show he could handle a larger role.
"I'm really confident in my ability and my work ethic," Orr said. "I feel like as far as putting it work, studying the game, there aren't too many people that are going to outwork me."
Fighting for his job has been part of Orr's routine throughout his football career. He wasn't highly recruited out of high school and came to the NFL as a long* *shot to make roster.
Getting a starting job once seemed far-fetched, but Orr is focused on making that happen before the Ravens open the season against Buffalo Sept. 11.
"I've always been slept on," Orr said. "But all I asked for was an opportunity, and I was able to get that. Now I'm still trying to take advantage of that opportunity and become a starter in this league."