It’s no secret that the Ravens were abused across the middle last season.
Opposing tight ends would feast on the weak coverage and consistently make C.J. Mosley look like he was moving in quicksand. Baltimore is having a tough time finding a dance partner for their star linebacker since Zachary Orr retired after the 2016 season with both Kamalei Correa and Patrick Onwuasor failing to effectively fill that role.
While Onwuasor showed promise by being the type of jitterbug the Ravens could use on that side of the ball, he excelled strictly at run support. He compiled 90 tackles between special teams and defense last season but only had a measly two passes defensed with no interceptions.
Correa had an even worse time acclimating to the NFL, moving from pass rusher to interior linebacker. He has hit many a speed bump thus far, amassing just 17 tackles over the last two seasons.
With the NFL draft now almost three weeks gone, younger players are looking to usurp the starting jobs. One of those young playmakers is Kenny Young, who played as a true freshman at UCLA and contributed all four years. He made a living running from sideline-to-sideline, stopping the run and keeping up with running backs and tight ends. Young had a solid senior season for the Bruins, racking up 110 combined tackles with 8.5 of them ending up in the backfield. He was named 2nd-team All-Pac- 12 for that performance.
The Ravens have few options, and their recent track record of drafting linebackers early has been abysmal, especially with Arthur Brown and Correa failing to live up to expectations. Mosley is the only inside linebacker drafted in the top two rounds by the Ravens to make an impact since the team selected Ray Lewis and Peter Boulware in 1996 and 1997, respectively — let that sink in.
New defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale needs to make several adjustments if he wants to have a successful defensive unit in 2018. Many believe Martindale could make those aforementioned pieces at linebacker work better than former defensive coordinator Dean Pees, who is now with the Titans.
Whatever happens, the middle of the defense could very much be the deciding factor of success this coming season.