Carroll County Times

Ravens pleased with play of inside linebackers

OWINGS MILLS - The Ravens no longer have a name like Ray Lewis headlining their group of inside linebackers, but the team seems pleased with the play of their current group.
Inside linebacker was probably Baltimore's biggest area of concern after Lewis retired and Dannell Ellerbe left as a free agent, but Daryl Smith has stepped into the Lewis-like role at middle linebacker and Jameel McClain, Josh Bynes and second round pick Arthur Brown have all seen time at weak-side linebacker.
"I think those guys have transitioned very well," defensive coordinator Dean Pees said.
The inside linebackers will get probably their biggest test of the year so far when the Ravens play Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, but they are a big part of why Baltimore is allowing the third-fewest yards per carry in the AFC (3.7).
Not that any of the four are Patrick Willis by any means or Lewis in his prime. Smith has been to blame on some long runs this year and struggled in coverage last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Bynes also had problems in coverage last week. McClain hasn't made many big plays since returning from the spinal cord contusion that sidelined him for the first six games. And Brown's role has been limited to sub-packages.
The group hasn't been spectacular, but it's been solid.
Smith, who signed with the Ravens in June after nine years with the Jacksonville Jaguars, leads the team with 95 tackles and also has 3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, 15 pass deflections and two interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown.
"I think Daryl has had an excellent year here coming in here and really learning this whole system," Pees said. "You may not know it, but we have a lot of calls. We do a lot of stuff, and he is the guy who has to know it all, and he is the guy on the headset getting it."
Bynes, a former undrafted free agent, started the first six games at weak-side linebacker with McClain out and still has a role even with McClain back, even though he is playing significantly less than he was before.
"Josh Bynes is just a great kid to have," Pees said. "[He has] done a heck of a job at linebacker. Every time we've called on him to do something, he has done it and performed it well."
Bynes did play almost twice as many snaps as McClain last week against the Steelers, but Pees said that was due to that individual game plan.
McClain has started all six games that he has played in.
"The fact that Jameel came back at all to me has been a blessing, and the fact that he is playing like he is playing is really incredible," Pees said.
Brown hasn't produced much thus far and was on the field for just eight snaps last week, but coach John Harbaugh has said before that Brown has a Torrey Smith-like work ethic.
"I think each game he gets a little better, as all rookies kind of do," Pees said. "They just kind of get a feel for things, and we've also kind of solidified his role and cut it down a little bit so that he doesn't have to know 800 things."