Rookie Watch: Is Baltimore Ravens Linebacker Kenny Young A Zach Orr Replacement?

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The Baltimore Ravens had arguably the best duo at middle linebacker in the league entering 2017. Then Zach Orr had to retire. The Ravens have been looking for Orr’s replacement. Rookie Kenny Young may be able to fill the role.


In linebacker CJ Mosley the Baltimore Ravens have one of the best middle/inside linebackers in the league. Mosley has averaged 123 tackles in his career, his lowest total of 92 coming in his injury-shortened 2016. In his four seasons, Mosley has been selected to the pro bowl and as a second-team all-pro three times. Through his first three seasons, Mosley had a good to great starter at next to him in Daryl Smith and Zach Orr. Orr even earned a second-team all-pro nod in 2016. Unfortunately, Orr was forced to retire due to a congenital neck/spine condition.

In Orr’s absence, undrafted free agent linebacker Patrick Onwuasor won the next to Mosley. You can read more about Onwuasor in an IDP Guys article written by Christian Gardner (@gardner_rake). Onwuasor had a productive 2017 in his counting stats with 90 tackles, 1 sack, 2 passes defended, 1 forced fumble, and 1 recovery.

However, PFF gave him a below average grade of 66.5, which ranked 34th among linebackers in 2017. Though Onwuasor was a solid run stopper, he struggled in pass coverage. The Ravens struggled as a whole to cover tight ends as well, ranking 29th in DVOA, a key role for middle and inside linebackers.

The Ravens seem to be looking for an upgrade at the other inside linebacker position, as they drafted UCLA inside linebacker Kenny Young in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL draft.

College

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Young became increasingly more productive throughout his college career. Over his last two seasons at UCLA, Young accumulated 200 total tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 6 sacks, 1 interception, 5 passes defended, and 4 fumble recoveries. One of Young’s best attributes is his speed. His sideline-to-sideline speed allows him to do well in coverage, something Onwuasor struggled with in 2017.

Young’s speed also allows him to pursue outside runs, meaning he can be a legitimate three-down linebacker.

NFL Offseason

After being selected in the fourth round by the Ravens, many thought Young would compete for the starting job alongside Mosley.

Young was given some repetitions with the starters when Mosley sat out as a precaution. He also received rave reviews in the initial days of training camp. Ravens defensive coordinator even recognized Young was pushing Onwuasor for the starting job early on. Young also took advantage of his chances to run with the first team defense in Onwuasor’s absence.

NFL Preseason Game Action

Though the Hall of Fame Game was a mess and we didn’t get to see “good” football, we did get to see a little bit of what makes Young special. One of Young’s weaknesses coming into the NFL was his run defense. Not the case on the play below.

Young played in 50% of the defensive snaps in the Ravens second preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams. While he had his fair share of mistakes, Young showed off his coverage skills with an impressive interception.

In the Ravens third preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts, Young played the most snaps among the linebackers. In those snaps, Young was impressive, leading the team with 8 tackles. He also demonstrated his ability in coverage.

Young once again led the Ravens linebackers in snaps for their preseason game against the Dolphins. Young ended up with a sack and led the team with 8 tackles, again. Meanwhile, Onwuasor demonstrated his lack of coverage skills, giving up a long reception to running back Kenyan Drake.

NFL Regular Season Game Action

Young was listed as Onwuasor’s backup on the Ravens first regular-season depth chart. This could possibly have had to do with his knee injury sustained in the final preseason game. Young was questionable to play in week one because of the injury.

In his first regular season action against the Buffalo Bills, Young made an impression. Sharing time with Onwuasor, Young had the second most tackles on the team as well as a sack. He also added another pressure and hit on Bills quarterback Josh Allen. On the other hand, Onwuasor had one tackle.

Summary

The Baltimore Ravens have been looking for an inside linebacker to partner with CJ Mosley since Zach Orr had to abruptly retire. Last season, Patrick Onwuasor did an OK job filling in the position. However, the Ravens are looking for more. They drafted UCLA inside linebacker Kenny Young in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL draft to compete with Onwuasor.

One of Young’s strengths is coverage, which the Ravens linebackers struggled with in 2017. Young has shown the ability to cover tight ends and running backs through the preseason. He has also shown improvement in run stopping. Though Onwuasor started ahead of Young in week one of the regular season, Young significantly out-produced Onwuasor.

Look for Young to eventually take over the starting job and become a sneaky add in your IDP leagues.

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