Throughout the Ravens' offseason, under-the-radar pass rusher Steven Means was introduced into conversations by coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome as a young player who bears watching.
The Ravens have identified the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers fifth-round NFL draft pick as a player with upside despite having appeared in just 11 career games with six tackles and no sacks in two NFL seasons.
Why? Means' combination of size at 6 feet 3, 263 pounds, unconventional pass-rushing moves and athleticism have intrigued team officials.
"He's really explosive," Harbaugh said during the Ravens' June minicamp. "He's really big and strong, and he has really long arms. He's like a young, big, gangly, crazy, almost out-of-control player sometimes. So, that's going to translate to pads pretty well. We'll see."
Signed to a $510,000 exclusive-rights tender, Means was added to the Ravens' practice squad this past October. He appeared in one game with no statistics registered.
Means was a prolific defensive end at the University at Buffalo, recording 185 tackles, including 29.5 for a loss, 18.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, two interceptions and five blocked kicks in his career.
"It's a blessing to be here with a lot of great guys and great coaches," Means said at minicamp. "It's been a long journey, but I trust God and trust he's put me in the right place. I'm just ready to contribute rushing the quarterback.
"I'm just trying to use all my God-given ability getting off the ball, turning my hips, turning the corner and getting to the quarterback. I'm feeling great about how everything is going for me with the Ravens so far."
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Means has been practicing as a rush outside linebacker and strongside outside linebacker, learning behind veteran Pro Bowlers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil and Courtney Upshaw.
"All those guys, Courtney, Suggs, 'Doom', [linebackers] coach Ted [Monachino] have helped me a lot," Means said. "I've been learning both spots. I love 'em both."
Means hopes to report to training camp later this month a little bigger and faster than he was in the spring.
The praise from Harbaugh and Newsome has bolstered his confidence.
"It means a lot," Means said. "It's a blessing straight from God just to be mentioned out of those guys' mouths in the media."