The Baltimore Ravens placed inside linebacker Jameel McClain on the reserve PUP list and defensive lineman Kapron Lewis-Moore on the non-football injury list on Tuesday to bring the roster down to 75 players.
In light of this announcement, McClain will have to miss the first six games of this season, leaving the Ravens with a slimmer linebacking group. However, not all may be lost with the former Syracuse Orange sidelined for at least six games and maybe more.
Throughout the preseason, the Ravens have played around with a mixed bag at the weak inside linebacker spot. With former Jacksonville Jaguar Daryl Smith all but locking down the strong inside linebacker position, Baltimore has looked to young guys like Josh Bynes and 2013 second-round pick Arthur Brown to fill the void left by McClain.
Bynes is known for making the last tackle in Baltimore’s Super Bowl XLVII victory and for making a start against the Denver Broncos during the 2012 regular season. The former Auburn Tigers player has been a glorified special teams player early on in his NFL career, but the third-year backer saw time with the starting defense last season after barely making the final 53-man roster.
What Bynes brings to the table is a guy who can excel on special teams and who also bring the wood in the run game, yet lacks the ability to cover the pass as well as his counterpart Brown.
The former Kansas State Wildcats player has appeared on special teams like Bynes during the preseason to show his versatility and athleticism off. No doubt, Brown is more instinctive and has better intangibles than Bynes, but lacks the ideal size of an NFL linebacker and has gotten stuffed up front by NFL-caliber lineman.
Brown’s somewhat diminutive figure is counteracted with his ability to break into pass coverage and go man-to-man with offensive targets, giving the Ravens options at the weak inside linebacker position.
If I were defensive coordinator Dean Pees, I would rotate these guys much like he rotates defensive lineman up front. He should use Bynes on earlier downs or definitive running downsm and Brown on third and guaranteed passing downs to keep the offense at bay.
I’m not saying Bynes can’t cover the pass and Brown can’t stop the run, but early signs throughout the preseason would tend to agree with the sentiment that Brown and Bynes have some things to work on.
And just because Bynes is better against the run than Brown, doesn’t mean he’s perfect or has the ideal size of a starting NFL linebacker either at 6-foot-1, 240 pounds. The same goes for Bynes against the pass in comparison to Brown. The gap isn’t that significant at this stage of the preseason, and probably won’t be that great heading into Week 1.
For Brown, his ceiling is ultimately higher than Bynes’ — it’s just a matter of learning the playbook.
Regardless, losing McClain wasn’t much of a surprise as he is still trying to recover from a spinal contusion that was deemed career-threatening at one point this offseason. The Ravens were prepared for this and like the great organization they are, they have kept their hands away from the “panic” button.