It can be argued that the Ravens linebackers are the strongest part of the team. This isn’t a new phenomenon. They have been solid for years. What this year brought was another opportunity for a new guy to step and take the place of a solid starter. Pro Bowler Bart Scott had defected to the Jets and it was up to a few young, unproven guys to seize the moment.
Tavares Gooden– He was the supposed heir apparent to Scott. He was from the U. He was supposed to be a Ray Ray protégé. He showed promise. He showed speed, but lacked the strength to be effective against the run. He just was not the physical presence the Ravens had hoped for. Whether it was being sidelined with injuries or his inability to tackle the opposing team’s running back, Tavares never played well enough to establish himself in that position for a long time to come. Can he get stronger and be a factor next year?
Dannell Ellerbe– this guy was the talk of the training camp. He was undrafted out of Georgia. He played his butt off during the preseason. He played so well, that he was able to still claim a roster spot after suffering a knee energy that would cause him to miss some practice and game time in late August. With Gooden going down with some injuries, Ellerbe made the most of his opportunities. The biggest knock on this kid was his lack of experience. He would take a bad line or miss a coverage every once in a while. He always seemed to make up for his mistakes with hustle and his wrecking ball mentality. Ellerbe may make Tavares Gooden’s shortcomings irrelevant.
Ray Lewis– This guy still is the heart and soul of the Ravens. Funny thing is that a year ago, we were still wondering if he would ever play a game in Baltimore again. Well he signed and will hopefully finish his tenure as a Raven. But what he showed this year is that he has a lot left in him. He came in slimmed down, and his explosiveness came back. It was great and he was rewarded with another Pro Bowl and All Pro selection. Can Ray do it for one more year and will he be able to fade into the background as his days in Baltimore dwindle?
Jarret Johnson– I must have been asked 8 times this season, “Who is the best Raven that we have never heard of?” Ummm. Jarret Johnson. This guy was a stud all season. He was arguably the best pass rusher. He came up with some key turnovers. He seemed to be involved play after play after play. And yet, he is the guy who people rarely talk about. In the end, it’s about results and Johnson played tough with a nagging injury all season. Glad to see him coming back next season.
This season left the Ravens wanting more. It also left them with some holes to fill. Hopefully, with what we saw in 2009, the linebacking corps should be solid for a few more years to come.