Ravens LB Malik Harrison could thrive in expanded role upon his return

Ravens, Malik Harrison Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Ravens, Malik Harrison Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

The past month or so has been a rollercoaster for Baltimore Ravens linebacker Malik Harrison. The former third-round pick was shot in the calf during a gathering in Cleveland in late October, and although the injury wasn’t life-threatening, it did force him out of action for a few weeks.

Harrison was placed on the non-football injury list and has since been designated to return. Obviously, the immediate concern was about Harrison’s well-being.

But since returning to practice, Harrison has been gearing up for his return. And in the process, the Ravens have worked to expand his role in an effort to maximize his talents.

Harrison has been used at both inside and outside linebacker in practice since being designated to return. And the Ravens plan to use him at both positions once he’s activated to the 53-man roster.

The Ravens plan to use Malik Harrison at outside linebacker

A third-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Harrison thrived as a downhill thumper at Ohio State and the Ravens hoped that he would develop into a future starter for them.

After an up-and-down rookie season, the Ravens entrusted Harrison with a starting role going into the 2021 season, especially once veteran L.J. Fort went down with a torn ACL in the preseason.

Harrison was paired with fellow 2020 draftee Patrick Queen as the Ravens leaned on their young linebacker duo. The results weren’t pretty.

In seven games this season, Harrison has registered a woeful 40.1 Pro Football Focus grade which ranks as the worst defender on the Ravens roster. If he played enough snaps to qualify, his grade would be ‘good’ for 72nd out of 84 qualified linebackers, right behind Queen.

PFF grades don’t tell the whole story, but it became pretty clear that Harrison was overwhelmed as a full-time starter. In his place, veteran Josh Bynes has stepped in and played very well in a starting role.

So much so that Harrison likely won’t be taking that job back anytime soon. That’s part of the reason the Ravens have been trying him at outside linebacker in practice.

Harrison has some experience playing on the edge dating back to his time at Ohio State. And at 6-foot-3, 247 pounds, he certainly looks more like a prototypical 3-4 outside linebacker than an off-ball linebacker.

For that reason, this is a role Harrison could thrive in. He’ll be allowed to do what he does best — set the edge as a run defender and use his frame to perhaps provide some pass rush as well.

There’s every chance that the Ravens have been forcing a square peg into a round hole all this time.

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Look for Malik Harrison to try and find his way into the outside linebacker rotation upon his return in the near future.