Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley has had to share the spotlight with veteran middle linebacker Daryl Smith during his first two seasons in the NFL, but that will change in 2016.
The Ravens released Smith March 3, and he later signed with Tampa Bay. Mosley has to replace Smith and will move from weak side linebacker to the middle or "Mike" position.
In the past, it might have been a tough transition because Mosley weighs just 235 pounds. But more and more teams are crashing gaps and penetrating -- not allowing offensive linemen or fullbacks clean, direct shots at linebackers. That gives a smaller middle linebacker like Mosley more space to make plays.
In theory, Mosley should be the Ravens' leading tackler again. He led the team in 2014 with 133 tackles and had 117 last year, five behind Smith's team-leading total of 121.
"With me and Daryl, sometimes we switched up roles; sometimes he came off the edge, sometimes I stayed in the middle," Mosley said Tuesday. "So, it's not like I haven't done it before, especially the past two years I've been here. It might be a little different just being in a different spot. I just have to remember where to line up. I'm not going on the weak side of the defense so much, but I feel it will be an easy transition since I know the defense."
Mosley will also have to become more of a team leader. Smith was one of the most personable players on the team, liked by everyone in the organization from the coaches to security personnel.
"Honestly, I think it's just a mindset thing, because you can always be a leader by example," Mosley said. "But when you feel like it's, 'OK, somebody needs to say something,' that's when you have to be like, 'Alright, it's my time to do that.' Or just something in general, whether it's just talking to somebody on the side or [if I] see somebody struggling and just talking to him, keeping his head up. [It's about] being a leader any kind of way you can.
"He was definitely my mentor," Mosley said of Smith. "We kind of set up a system my rookie year about vets being guys' mentors. Even though he was assigned to me, before he even got assigned, I was already looking up to him. I'm sad to see him go, but he balled out and got a second paycheck and he's back in Florida, so I'm pretty sure he's happy about that."