Advertisement

Ravens' depth at outside linebacker makes for difficult decisions

Two weeks ago, outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith was the odd man out. On Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, rookie second-round linebacker Kamalei Correa was again a healthy scratch while Albert McClellan saw his defensive snaps reduced significantly.

Elvis Dumervil's healthy return from a foot injury has made the competition for snaps at outside linebacker even deeper. A year after Terrell Suggs sustained a season-ending Achilles injury in Week One and the team struggled to find a complement for Dumervil, the Ravens now have more edge rushers than they can keep active on game days.

Advertisement

"We've got pass rushers and having pass rushers that you can roll into the game and keep them healthy and having pass rushers that still have juice in the fourth quarter is very important and very valuable," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Friday.

Suggs leads the Ravens with eight sacks and he's playing only 65 percent of the team's defensive snaps. He's stayed fresh for fourth quarters, when he's registered six of his eight sacks.

Primarily used on run downs, McClellan has started seven games opposite Suggs at strong-side linebacker. However, he played in just 16 defensive snaps in the victory over the Dolphins as Dumervil got his first start of the season.

"This is Year 11 for me, and all I care about is making plays and trying to help the team so that we can get to the Super Bowl, not who starts and all that," Dumervil said after Thursday's practice. "Even when I was a full-time starter in Denver, it was always about the guys who could make an impact. I knew guys who didn't start but made a big impact in the game. For this defense and the kind of guys that we have, that's the last thing on our minds."

The team's cadre of outside linebackers has made for some difficult decisions on whom to make inactive on game days. Harbaugh has already said that it's tough to dress more than four outside linebackers. Suggs, Dumervil and McClellan, also one of the team's top special teams players, are givens. That leaves one or two active spots for Smith and rookies Matthew Judon and Correa.

Smith, a second-year player who had 5 ½ sacks as a rookie, has started four games this year, although he was kept inactive for the Nov.27 game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Correa has been scratched in two consecutive games.

Advertisement
Advertisement