Ravens young linebackers face hefty challenge with no preseason games

Team expects rookies to make impact
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The Ravens are preparing for the most unique season in NFL history.

The Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc with all levels of sports across the globe.

As a result, the NFL is treading carefully toward the 2020 regular season.

In an effort to ensure player safety, the league canceled all of the preseason games. While it's a prudent decision, it creates a whole new set of challenges for teams like the Ravens who will be relying on several rookies to make an impact, especially at linebacker.

Patrick Queen, a first-round pick from LSU, is expected to take over the starting role at inside linebacker and become a three-down player. Fellow rookie Malik Harrison, a third-round pick from Ohio State, is also preparing to get an extended extension as the weakside inside linebacker. 

However, they won't see any live NFL action until the regular-season opener against the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 13. They will be under a lot of pressure as first-year players, especially with the speed of the game. 

"I think Patrick Queen will play probably at 'Mike' for the most part — right down the middle," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "Let him use his speed and his instincts to run around and make plays for all three phases, be a three-down guy both in our base package and sub-package," Harbaugh said in a conference call with season ticket holders. "As for Malik, we'll probably start him off at 'Will' in the base package. He also will be representing at 'Mike.' We'll flip those guys around."

The Ravens do have some depth behind the rookies and Harbaugh will have those players ready to play a key role. 

One option is L.J. Fort, who signed a two-year contract extension with the Ravens on Nov. 18. He recorded 26 tackles, two sacks (-12 yards) and one pass defended, helping Baltimore’s defense rank No. 3 in points (17.6) and No. 4 in yards (300.6) allowed per game. Fort also made ......................... m.......................... impact on special teams and provides a valuable veteran presence.   

The Ravens also have Otaro Alaka, who was signed as a rookie free agent on May 3, 2019. He is looking to show he can be part of the rotation at linebacker after being placed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury on Sept. 28. 

Alaka appeared in 53 games (45 starts) for Texas A&M, recording 276 tackles (129 solo) and 11.5 sacks. In his senior campaign, led the team with 79 total tackles and 14.5 TFL (-52 yards), adding 4 sacks and 1 forced fumbles.