Next man up at inside linebacker for Ravens?

November 18, 2011 | Luke Jones

With veteran linebacker Ray Lewis appearing likely to miss his first game since 2007, the question becomes who takes his place in the starting lineup against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

Jameel McClain will obviously hold down the other inside linebacker spot as he has all season, but the Ravens will likely turn to Brendon Ayanbadejo and will hope to have third-year thumper Dannell Ellerbe available against the Bengals. Ellerbe was upgraded to being a full participant in Thursday’s practice after practicing on a limited basis the day before and all last week.

Under normal circumstances, the Ravens would likely go with Ellerbe as their other starter inside — with Ayanbadejo coming on the field in passing situations — but the former has missed five of the last six games with hamstring and groin injuries.

However you choose to look at it, the Ravens will severely miss Lewis’ leadership on the field should he miss Sunday’s game after making 57 consecutive starts, but they hope the combination of Ayanbadejo and Ellerbe can provide steady play in the future Hall of Fame linebacker’s absence.

Ayanbadejo has 17 tackles this season while Ellerbe has just four in four games.