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Thin defense creates growing role for linebacker Zachary Orr

Thin defense creates growing role for linebacker Zachary Orr
Ravens inside linebacker Zachary Orr sacks Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer in the fourth quarter. (Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun)

Since he arrived in Baltimore as an undrafted free agent two springs ago, inside linebacker Zachary Orr knew his path onto the field would be through special teams, a path so many others in his position had used before.

With a short-handed defense searching for answers and, as defensive coordinator Dean Pees said this month, using every tool they have, that has meant a place in the defensive rotation for Orr.

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In 12 defensive snaps against the Arizona Cardinals Monday, Orr had three solo tackles and his first career sack, a fourth-quarter takedown of quarterback Carson Palmer that set up the Ravens' first blocked punt of the season.

"It felt good, even though we were losing," Orr said. "At the time, I celebrated because it was a big play, we kind of pushed them back and gave our offense a chance to get back. We ended up blocking the punt."

Orr, one of a handful of core special teams players, was as excited about the blocked punt as his sack. But he's seeing growth in his defensive role. The Ravens are using Orr as an extra inside linebacker alongside C.J. Mosley and Daryl Smith, in some situations freeing Mosley to rush the passer without sacrificing bodies in the middle of the defense.

Sometimes, he rushes alongside Mosley, as was the case on his sack. Orr played well during training camp and the preseason, showing coverage skills and athleticism that distinguished him from the rest of the reserve linebackers. With Albert McClellan a full-time outside linebacker since Terrell Suggs tore his Achilles tendon, Orr is the top backup inside, ahead of former second-round NFL draft pick Arthur Brown.

"[We're] just trying to give defenses different looks and everything, find ways to make plays out there, whether it's pressuring or covering, just mixing things up a little bit," Orr said. "It feels good that the coaches and my teammates have got faith in me to go out there and play on defense, play meaningful snaps."

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