When the Baltimore Ravens drafted linebacker Kamalei Correa in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft, the logical assumption was that they envisioned him as lining up on the outside, with aging pass rushers on either side of the defense and having lost some key depth players in free agency over the past two years there.
But the Ravens also lost starting inside linebacker Daryl Smith in free agency in 2016, and they didn’t really do anything to replace him, hoping instead to cobble together an answer internally. It now appears that part of the equation in finding that answer is the rookie Correa.
This was, in fact, something that was talked about already as early as the beginning of June on the team’s website, though it only became apparent that that was their intention with the opening of training camp over the past few days.
Correa did work a little bit at inside linebacker during OTAs. During that time, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said that he feels Correa has “inside linebacker traits”, noting that “he played it quite in college quite a bit. They moved him around”.
But he ultimately framed that statement under the guise of ‘the more you can do’, as coaches love versatility, and for the most part the speculation as to who would start at inside linebacker was primarily reserved for players sharing other names, none of whom were rookies and all of whom have been on the roster already.
Perhaps it’s a bit surprising to consider that the Ravens might start another rookie at inside linebacker, particularly one who has not necessarily been a traditional inside linebacker before, but the fact remains that he is, potentially, one of their most talented defenders not in the starting lineup already—and there is an open spot in that lineup.
Whether or not he does end up starting, he may well see time during his rookie season regardless, bouncing around the defense, playing both outside linebacker and inside linebacker. This is not a role the Ravens are unaccustomed to, as players over the past few years have displayed similar versatility as a rotational player.
Correa came up with an interception in practice yesterday after he tipped a Joe Flacco pass as he retreated from the line of scrimmage with one hand on a play that may have resulted in a pick-six in a full scrimmage setting.
Among the players with whom Correa is competing is Zachary Orr, a 2014 undrafted free agent who has impressed the coaching staff over the past two years. Orr appears currently to be the main competition to succeed Smith in the starting lineup, and also was reported to have gotten off to a good start in training camp.
A note on an article a few days ago, before we go: offensive tackle Jake Long elected not to sign with the Ravens after undergoing a physical to evaluate his knee. Long and the Ravens were working on terms, but he chose to remain a free agent rather than sign an injury waiver with the team.