Over the next couple of weeks, I will write about different positions on the Ravens and the battles that could be interesting leading into training camp.
So here are the linebackers:
Ray Lewis –Ray is going into final year of a contract. Seems to be reenergized
Bart Scott – final year of contract for Bart. This will be a big year for him. Really did not have as bad as a year last year as it appears. Bart also played a majority of the season with a hand injury.
Mike Smith – has to prove that he is healthy and can contribute to the team on special teams.
Tavares Gooden – 3rd round draft pick. People have put the “next Ray Lewis” tag on him a bit early. Will have to earn stripes on special teams and prove that he can pick up Rex Ryan’s defense quickly.
Gary Stills – he will have a tough battle in front of him this year. He is a special team’s monster, but there are several of the same type players on team. Also has to prove that knee problems that caused him to miss practice last year will not be an issue.
Edgar Jones – very impressive in camp last year and got a chance to play last season. Lot of the coaches were impressed with him last year, really has work cut out in front of him this year to make the team. Much like Stills, there are just to many of the same type players on this team: Stills, Jones, Ayanbadejo,Greisen,Burgess,etc.
Antwan Barnes – played better than what most expected last year. A guy that loves getting after the quarterback and making the big hit. A guy who I expect the Ravens to expand his role in the defense a little bit this year.
Prescott Burgess – missed six games last year due to injury. Nice backup on defense, he is a guy that the Ravens really like on special teams and always seems to be around the football on the tackle.
Terrell Suggs – one of the best in the game at his position, which is a topic of debate right now whether he is a defensive end or linebacker. He had better numbers last year in almost every category except sacks.
Dan Cody – has to prove maybe once and for all that he is healthy. Not that it is fair to him, but hard to count on guy when he can’t get on the field to practice let alone play in the game. So far he has made it through the OTA’s injury free.
Jarrett Johnson – listed as a DE/LB on team’s website. Everyone expected Jarrett to be Adalius Thomas last year. That is not the type of player he is and people expected him to be “A.D.’s replacement”. I think this will be a big year for Jarrett as Rex Ryan and his staff will be able to do more with him. Jarrett battled through some injuries also last year.
Brendon Ayanbadejo – Ravens biggest off season signing this past offseason and a guy that I think set the tone for the type of team John Harbaugh wants. Brendon is a great special team’s player. Watch almost any of the Devin Hester touchdown returns, and Brendon is there making a huge block to spring Devin.
Nick Greisen – Nick resigned with the Ravens this offseason for a reason. Everyone was impressed with Nick when he came to the Ravens last year as to how quickly he picked up the defense and the special teams stuff. Nick is another guy that I think John Harbaugh likes, a guy that shows up to work and gives you everything he has and will do anything you ask him to. He is another guy that was very solid on special teams last year.
Robert McCune – really faces an uphill battle to make this team this year with all the depth a linebackers, and all the special teams’ guys that are on the team. He is a guy that has the mentality to face that challenge being a guy that has been in the Army for four years.
So if you are Rex Ryan and his staff and you can only keep eight linebackers, who do you, keep? Also keep in mind the special team’s factor.