It's really sinking in now for Ravens outside linebacker Albert McClellan.
In two days, he'll run out of the tunnel at M&T Bank Stadium and hear his name announced as a defensive starter to launch the regular season for the first time since entering the NFL as an undrafted free agent three years ago.
The Ravens play the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night in a nationally televised game.
McClellan beat out rookie outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw, the Ravens' second-round draft pick, to become the starter at rush linebacker, injured NFL Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs' vacated spot.
"It's pretty cool," McClellan said. "To get to go out there with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, it's a lot of responsibility on my shoulders. So, I just got to live up to my expectations.
"It's still an ongoing process each week. I got to stay focused and keep my job and let things work out the way they're supposed to work out."
McClellan started one game last season against the San Francisco 49ers and recorded a career-high four tackles. He also led the Ravens with a dozen special-teams tackles.
The 6-foot-2-245-pounder finished the preseason with nine tackles and a sack, ranking fifth on the team in tackles.
"First thing I need to do is get the call and set the front for the whole defense," McClellan said. "Once that's done, then I'll set the defense."
McClellan said he'll line up at both rush linebacker and strongside linebacker, where Paul Kruger is listed as the starter.
Although his primary responsibilities are stopping the run and chasing the quarterback, McClellan has been honing his pass coverage skills as well.
"My pass coverage is getting there," he said. "I've been working on that a lot and focused on that a lot. Now, I need to focus on my pass rush as well."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun