Ravens Have More In-House Options at Outside Linebacker ‘Than Meets The Eye’

Ravens LBs Malik Harrison and Steven Means

Getty Ravens LBs Malik Harrison and Steven Means make a tackle in a preseason game on August 11, 2022

The Baltimore Ravens are loaded at several positions on their roster on both sides of the ball at the moment, outside linebacker isn’t one of them and is, in fact, quite to the contrary. They currently have just two healthy edge defenders listed on their active roster on the official team website. Second-year pro Odafe Oweh is one and 12-year veteran Justin Houston is the other.

They signed journeyman veteran Steven Means and undrafted rookie Jeremiah Moon to the practice squad and reportedly claimed former Buffalo Bills and New York Jets outside linebacker Del’Shawn Phillips off waivers following the final round of cuts but he has not yet been added to the active roster on the team website.

Tyus Bowser will start the regular season on the reserve/physically unable to perform list and rookie David Ojabo is on injured reserve until at least midseason. Both players are recovering from torn Achilles suffered at different times earlier in the year but neither will be available for the first month of the season.

Fans and members of the media that closely follow the team have been loudly clamoring for the Ravens to make a notable addition or even two to replenish their ranks at the position. However, the team doesn’t see the same dearth of capable players that can play and make a difference on the edge as others outside of the front office and coaching staff.

“There are more guys who can play there than meets the eye on the depth chart,” head coach John Harbaugh said in a press conference on August 31, 2022. “Malik Harrison definitely – if you’ve watched practice – he’s been out there quite a bit. He plays out there, so he can do that. Then, other guys can play on the edge as well. Linebackers go out there, Patrick Queen goes out there quite a bit in different fronts and different looks. Calais [Campbell] even goes out there in some of our bigger looks.”

Queen and Harrison are heading into pivotal third seasons in their respective careers and while neither has faired particularly well in coverage in their first two seasons, both are at their best playing downhill. Queen is a dangerous blitzer that has recorded five sacks, 13 quarterback hits, 18 pressures, eight knockdowns, and five hurries in his first two years in the league according to Pro Football Reference. Harrison is coming off a very strong preseason and the team has been experimenting with the possibility of him doing some moonlighting at the SAM outside linebacker spot dating back to last year.

Josh Ross “Earned” Roster Spot & Is Going to “Keep Fighting”

The undrafted rookie out of Michigan had a bit of an edge over his fellow unheralded competitors at his position for a roster spot given his familiarity with Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald’s scheme since he played for him with the Wolverines in 2021. However, Harbaugh made it abundantly clear that Ross played his way into being deserving of a roster spot.

“He earned it,” Harbaugh said. “He played really well – he played well on defense, he played well on special teams. He came in, he started off well. He just kind of kept the momentum going all through camp. So, in the games, he made plays. So, he earned his spot.

He told his brother Jim Harbaugh who was Ross’ head coach in college that the first-year pro was going to make the team two or three days before final cuts were made and spoiled the surprise and suspense for fans and all parties involved. However, just making the team isn’t enough for the talented rookie who intends to

“Now I’m in the fight, and now I keep fighting, and now I keep getting better to make myself the best player I can make myself.”

Perfect Role Model on Coaching Staff

Ross doesn’t need to look any further than his own position coach as a shining example to strive for as a player. Before a congenital neck injury forced him to retire after just three years in the league, Ravens’ first-year inside linebackers coach Zach Orr had established himself as one of the best young ascending defenders in the league.

Like Ross, he went undrafted and signed with the Ravens as a rookie free agent in 2014 out of North Texas. Also like Ross, he performed so well in both training camp and the preseason that he earned a spot on the final 53-man roster his first year in the league. Orr went on to work his way up from a core special teams contributor to starter alongside four-time Pro Bowler CJ Mosley and earned Second-Team All-Pro honors the season before he retired.

“[He’s] a guy that’s literally done everything I want to do, and some, with his career – being an undrafted guy,” Ross said. “Having guys like that as your coach, as a mentor, as a guy who can critique your game, as a guy who can help you, it’s literally the best thing you can ask for because it’s a guy who’s done what you want to do.”

The strong tradition and rich history of former undrafted free agent linebackers that not only made the Ravens roster but made names for themselves in the league as difference makers is a motivating factor for Ross every time he steps on the field and a legacy he wants to become a part of.

“The legacy of the undrafted free agent, specifically, the linebacker undrafted free agent, it makes me so excited for [practice], every single day,” Ross said. “I’m not going to say I was thinking [about that]; I was just thinking about getting better and making my next rep the best rep, and still continuing to do that, because it’s still ever going. A chapter closed, and now it’s another chapter that’s opened of keep getting better.

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