Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw was forced to grow faster than most rookies in a 2012 season that saw outside linebacker Terrell Suggs coming off of surgery with a torn Achilles. But with Ray Lewis gone, the Ravens will expect Upshaw to take more of a leadership role from here on out at the linebacker position.
Upshaw had a solid rookie campaign, being arguably the best run stopper on the entire defense for a team that allowed 122.8 yards per game. At the Week 7 point, he was noted for being the best run defender out of all 3-4 outside linebackers in the league, according to profootballfocus.com. The second year player recorded 60 tackles, 1.5 sacks and two forced fumbles on the 2012 season.
Other than Upshaw’s play on the outside, he proved to be very versatile in the 2012 season. Due to injuries, the Ravens lined him up at inside linebacker and defensive tackle, where he held up effectively.
Upshaw will most likely share spot duty with the Ravens’ new addition of Elvis Dumervil. The Ravens have a defense that traditionally that is not vanilla, so a good player like Upshaw will find a way to see plenty of action on defense over the course of a game.
He will be expected to come in for obvious run down situations, while Dumervil will see obvious passing down situations. But, at the end of the day, Dumervil will see more action at the weak side outside linebacker position because the $35 million contract given to him says so. Suggs may platoon from time to time with Upshaw and Dumervil, but Suggs will be the primary starter on the strong side.
Look for Upshaw to improve on his pass rushing skills, but run defending will be his primary role for the Ravens.