I have been a firm believer that the replacement for Ray Lewis(as much as I hate the term replacement), was already on the Ravens roster. Last year I said it was time for Ellerbe to up his game and play alongside McClain. I was right about that, but unfortunately I never saw Ellerbe getting a 35 million dollar contract so that duo is obviously out the window now.
With Ellerbes departure, I am less confident that the solution is already on the roster, but I am not lacking all confidence. It looks like Courtney Upshaw might be that guy.
Last week I noted that one of the benefits to signing Elvis Dumervil was that it wouldnt limit Upshaw to only playing OLB. Last season upshaw played at ILB, OLB(both sides), DE, DT and nickel corner. There is no reason to pigeon hole his talent into one spot when he is so capable of playing basically anywhere on the defense.
I am not sure if I love the idea of moving Upshaw inside full time. That said, moving him around through all four spots in the linebacker corp is a pretty awesome plan. I would like to see Upshaw on the field for as many snaps as he can handle, He is easily one of the Ravens five best defenders. If having him on the field that often means playing him predominantly at ILb then great, but lets not forget how flexible he is.
Upshaw would probably immediately be the best ILB on the roster, It is a pretty good spot for him and once he gets comfortable there i believe he could consistently play at a pro-bowl level. Because of Upshaw, the Ravens aren’t nearly as desperate inside as the experts might lead you to believe.