August 15, 2022

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Mike Preston: Do the Ravens must improve at linebacker? It’s open to debate. | COMMENTARY

When the 2021 season ended, the notion was that the injury-riddled Ravens secondary had change into the protection’s weakest unit. However upon additional overview, it may need been the linebackers.

The trace of dissatisfaction got here quickly afterward when the Ravens parted methods with exterior linebackers coach Drew Wilkins and inside linebackers coach Rob Ryan. These dismissals and the subpar play on the sector leaves newly employed defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald and the faculty scouts with a troublesome choice when the NFL draft begins April 28.

The Ravens have urgent wants on the offensive and defensive traces, however what if a high center linebacker like Georgia’s Nakobe Dean or Utah’s Devin Lloyd is offered when the crew selects with the No. 14 general choose within the first spherical?

If Dean or Lloyd can be found, and clearly the perfect participant on the board, then it’s not that arduous of a choice. But when they’ve related grades, then the controversy turns into a bit extra intriguing.

By now, it’s no secret that the Ravens have evident weaknesses on the inside of the defensive position, however Macdonald has to find out if the center linebacker place is salvageable. When the Ravens chosen Patrick Queen with the No. 28 general choose within the 2020 draft, he was anticipated to be the starter for at the very least the subsequent 5 years.

Due to his pace, there have been some who thought he could possibly be the subsequent Ray Lewis. Properly, that hasn’t panned out.

In truth, Queen struggled a lot final season that former defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale moved him to the weak aspect. However the identical issues adopted him there. He couldn’t get off blocks. He missed tackles due to poor method and unhealthy pursuit angles.

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Now Macdonald has to determine if he can flip Queen right into a strong center linebacker or maintain him on the weak aspect, the place he doesn’t need to be as bodily and confirmed some enchancment.

“I believe it’s up within the air proper now,” Macdonald stated just lately of Queen. “We’re nonetheless early on. That will likely be a course of that we’ll most likely maintain you updated because it goes. However Patrick goes to achieve success regardless of the place he’s at. He’s an ideal participant, he’s bought an ideal talent set, he’s very sensible, he’s nonetheless actually younger. So, he’s bought an ideal profession forward of him.”

The Ravens have the choice to carry again 32-year-old veteran Josh Bynes within the center, however he’s a stop-gap measure. He’s acquainted with the crew’s scheme, a well-liked participant within the locker room and is coming off a strong season with 76 tackles in 12 begins, however he’s additionally a legal responsibility in cross protection.

Bynes has had three stints with the Ravens. Except there’s an emergency, is there actually a necessity for a fourth?

The Ravens want a powerful presence within the center. There’s uncertainty about whether or not they may re-sign their high run-stoppers on the defensive position in finish Calais Campbell and nostril sort out Brandon Williams. The Ravens have succesful backups in tackles Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington, however they’re unproven as starters.

Perhaps Macdonald, who rotated Michigan’s protection final season, can work related magic with Queen and fellow third-year linebacker Malik Harrison. Perhaps the infusion of different new coaches like inside linebackers coach Zach Orr, exterior linebackers coach Rob Leonard or new defensive high quality management assistant Ryan Osborn may be sufficient for Macdonald to maintain Queen inside for one more season.

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If not, Lloyd and Dean are good choices. Dean had 72 tackles, 10 ½ tackles for loss, six sacks, two interceptions and two pressured fumbles in 2021 to guide Georgia to the nationwide championship. He’s the speedy prototype NFL groups are chasing at 6-feet and 225 kilos.

Lloyd is extra of the outdated guard with a 6-3, 232-pound body. He had 101 tackles, 22 tackles for loss, eight sacks and 4 interceptions final season.

The Ravens are going to scout each Lloyd and Dean laborious. It’s already powerful to win within the NFL, and even harder when a crew can’t cease the run. Hopefully the Ravens don’t restrict themselves in relation to scouting and evaluating. Typically, they get too caught up in developments or their very own misconceptions.

As a result of they’re a run-first crew, they’ve continued to draft massive, highly effective offensive linemen who battle cross blocking. That’s a significant cause why they’ve received just one playoff sport prior to now 4 seasons. The NFL has coveted these quick, fast linebackers to assist in cross protection, however there are linebackers on the market who may play each the run and the cross moderately properly.

C.J. Mosley, regardless of a gradual begin, was strong in each areas when he was with the Ravens from 2014 to 2018. Dallas Cowboys star Micah Parsons can play everywhere in the area on any down and state of affairs. After which there was Lewis, the perfect ever, who solely got here off the sector late in his profession when the coaches pressured him to the sideline.

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In some methods, Lewis won’t ever get replaced as a result of gamers like him are generational in NFL cities.

However the Ravens may be within the hunt for the subsequent one.