In March, plenty of questions surrounded the Ravens pass rush. Fast-forward almost five months, and on paper, the Ravens have arguably one of the best pass rushes in the NFL.
After tearing his Achilles and biceps last year, Terrell Suggs has transformed not only his body, but his attidude. The 2011 Defensive Player of the year reported to camp more mature and “100 percent” physically, as he stated on Wednesday.
The loss of Paul Kruger and his nine sacks during the regular season (15.5 total) was addressed when one of the league’s premier pass rushers in Elvis Dumervil seemingly fell into the Ravens’ lap.
Courtney Upshaw is a little overweight, but should be in top shape by the time the season begins on September 5th against the Broncos.
All of this is great news for the Ravens, but not so much for John Simon, a former Ohio State linebacker who was drafted by the Ravens in the fourth round. Simon is a phenomenal talent who oozes intensity. He’s an intimidating player as well, who looks like he never leaves the gym, except maybe to get his massive arms tattooed.
On most teams, Simon would make an immediate impact on the defense. However, there is a logjam on the Ravens depth chart ahead of him, which will likely limit his contributions this season.
With many question marks at middle linebacker, I wondered if the Ravens would potentially move Simon to the inside to see an immediate impact from him.
John Harbaugh dismissed my theory on Thursday.
“You’re right, we have a lot of depth there so that does stack up against him,” Harbaugh told me after Thursday’s practice.
“John is not a middle linebacker type of guy for us. He’s an outside linebacker, he’s a good pass rusher and he’s shown some pass rushing knack. He’s actually dropping into coverage, which was something he didn’t do at Ohio State, I think really ever.”
Even though Simon is relegated to the outside, Simon told me he would welcome a move to the middle if asked.
“It’s wherever they want me, I’ll go,” he said. “[The coaches] know that’s the case and I’ll welcome anything they ask, I’ll do it.”
According to his teammates, Simon is doing all of the right things as a rookie. Simon is modeling his game after Dumervil, the guy in front of him on the depth chart, and is trying to learn as much as possible.
“I’m looking up to [Elvis Dumervil] and seeing how he takes being a professional everyday and trying to incorporate parts of his game into my game,” Simon said. “I’m just asking him questions in the meeting room and he’s a tremendous guy both on and off the field, he’s a great person to learn from.”
Dumervil had equally good things to say about his young protégé.
“He’s a hard worker,” said Dumervil. “It seems like Ozzie brings nothing but hard workers in and guys that want it. I think that’s what he brings as a rookie. In minicamp, he doesn’t say much but he worked hard. That’s what you should do.”
Simon possessed great leadership characteristics while playing collegiately at Ohio State. Many may reflect back on his head coach Urban Meyer saying that he’d name his child after Simon. The values that Simon learned in college are helping make the transition to the NFL a smooth one.
“I really do think Ohio State prepared me very well for this next level,” he said. “It’s just getting used to a whole new team and earning that respect again that you earned in college. That’s the process I’m in and I’m doing everything I can do that.”
Coach Harbaugh doesn’t strike me as a person who would name his child after one of his players, but he’s certainly noticing Simon’s contributions early into training camp.
“You earn your opportunities,” Harbaugh said. “He’s a pretty determined guy.”
Given what has been said by his fellow players and coaches, Simon appears to welcome the logjam ahead of him and likely will bring a chainsaw and cut right through it.
That’s just the kind of intensity he has.