Making the case for the Ravens to keep linebacker Josh Ross
After three preseason games, which Baltimore Ravens’ bubble player has impressed you the most? For many fans, that standout is UDFA linebacker Josh Ross.
Ross quietly put together a solid training camp, rarely making the headlines and flying under the radar as a skilled but not spectacular defender. The 23-year-old ran a decent 4.79 40-time and, like most undrafted free agents, enjoyed a productive collegiate career.
Then came the Ravens’ first two preseason games — with every defensive play, Ross stepped further ahead of the pack.
Ross received the highest grade among all defensive players to play a minimum of 20 percent of snaps this preseason (93.0) according to Pro Football Focus, and he’s been especially impressive in man and pass coverage.
In Baltimore’s preseason finale against the Commanders, Ross capped off his elite string of performances with a team-high 11 tackles and arguably looked like one of the strongest and savviest defenders on the field.
In the inside linebacker unit, Ross has been directly competing with Malik Harrison and Kristian Welch for a backup role behind Josh Bynes and Patrick Queen. Whereas Harrison and Welch may have more years of experience, Ross has two significant advantages that could see him make the final roster come Tuesday.
Ravens UDFA Josh Ross can make a sizeable impact in the inside linebacker unit
For one, Ross is already familiar with Mike Macdonald’s defensive system having played under him at Michigan. Like second-rounder David Ojabo, Ross made the most out of his time on the Wolverines, albeit he doesn’t carry as much upside as Ojabo does.
The two-year captain for Michigan earned third team All-Big Ten honors and recorded over 100 tackles during Michigan’s title-winning campaign. Though he went undrafted, Ross entered Baltimore with a level of comfort in Macdonald’s scheme that other defenders lack, and that could give him a big enough boost to send him to the final roster.
Another Ravens coach may also have a strong bond with Ross: linebackers coach Zach Orr. Like Ross, Orr was a UDFA in 2014 and he eventually made the Ravens’ 53-man roster as a rookie.
Orr worked his way up to become a defensive starter by his third season before he was diagnosed with a health condition that forced him into retirement.
Orr needs only to look at Josh Ross to see flashes of the promising linebacker Orr was nearly a decade ago, and he may use that extra note of sentimentality to make a case for keeping Ross on the final roster.
Of course, it also helps that Ross has been consistently performing as one of the best inside linebackers in preseason — at the very least, Baltimore should consider including Ross on special teams as he continues to grow into a starting-caliber role.
Every preseason is bound to churn out a few surprising gems, and for both reasons in and out of his control, Josh Ross is one of them.