The Ravens will host the Oakland Raiders this Sunday and that’s good news for linebacker Dannell Ellerbe.
In 2009, Ellerbe recorded two tackles, recovered a fumble and returned an interception 28 yards to help the Ravens defeat the Raiders 21-13. The win was critical, as it allowed the Ravens to secure a wild card berth and block the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers from reaching the playoffs.
Ellerbe is coming off his best performance of the season in a 25-15 win over the Cleveland Browns. He combined for nine tackles (four solo) and added a sack. His 3.5 sacks currently lead the struggling defensive unit.
Despite only having three wins, the Ravens defense can’t take the Raiders offense lightly.
“They have a fast offense,” Ellerbe said. “They have guys that can make big plays. I just need to do my job and trust my teammates and we’ll be alright.”
After being rumored to be in John Harbaugh’s “dog house” in previous seasons, Ellerbe has made a strong impression on his coaches.
“I think he’s done a great job maturing,” John Harbaugh said. “He’s become a real pro. There was really no doubt in our minds that when the opportunity came he was going to do well because he’s always done well with every opportunity he’s got.”
Ellerbe remains more confident in his abilities now that he’s been on the field more consistently.
“When you know you’re going to be in there every down, you prepare different[ly],” Ellerbe said. “You feel more comfortable on the field when you’re on the field all the time, instead of just coming in and out in spurts.”
As the number of plays for Ellerbe increases, so does the amount of studying. He and his fellow defensive teammates have made it a habit to study game film at fellow linebacker Jameel McClain’s home.
“During the week, we go over to his house and watch film,” Ellerbe said. “We try to get the [defensive linemen] and some of the defensive backs over too so we’re all on the same page.”
The defense looked to be on the same page against the Browns – especially in the red zone, where they held Cleveland to zero touchdowns on five trips. As they continue to improve, the only statistic Ellerbe cares about is in the win column.
“I feel like we’re in a good position, all that matters is the record,” Ellerbe said. “It doesn’t matter what people think how strong we are or how weak we are, the only thing that matters is we go out and find a way to get the win.”
Ellerbe and the defense have a difficult task ahead as they face Carson Palmer, who has had plenty of success against his former division rivals. In 13 career games against the Ravens, Palmer nine wins.