By Samuel Njoku
Dannell Ellerbe, LB, #59
Hometown: Hamlet, NC
Experience: 4 years
Ray Lewis has a torn triceps that will keep him off the field for the rest of the season. This news has left fans scrambling for answers as to who can replace him. Baltimore will probably look for Dannell Ellerbe to step up. The speedy linebacker has had success on the field, but has not been in the spotlight with such a crowded list of stars on defense. Soon fans will recognize how much of an impact Ellerbe can make on gameday. He’s done it before.
Ellerbe is comfortable playing in big time games. Playing for Georgia in the always competitive SEC, Dannell made a name for himself as a difference maker on defense. During his time in Georgia, he would record 8.5 sacks and 3 interceptions to go along with his 148 tackles. His play on the field garnered him 2nd –team All SEC honors by the Associated Press. Though his play on the field was superb, he was undrafted in the 2009 NFL Draft.
Baltimore signed the SEC linebacker soon after the end of the draft. The Ravens are known for their uncanny ability to grab talent through undrafted free agency. And it looked as if they struck gold once again. Ellerbe would start 3 games his rookie year and recorded 41 tackles and an interception. The Ravens were high on Ellerbe. He would compete for the opportunity to start alongside Ray Lewis in the 2010 season. But during a preseason game in St. Louis, he returned an interception for a touchdown while taunting the opposing team. Coach Harbaugh was irate and the act sent the young linebacker into the doghouse.
Ellerbe wouldn’t see much action after that incident. Showing up during certain passing situations, it appeared as though Ellerbe had lost his shot. But when Ray Lewis went down in 2011, Ellerbe stepped in for the HOF linebacker. Dannell would record 19 tackles in that span and the Ravens went undefeated in that time period. Now with the loss of Ray Lewis, the Ravens will ask for Ellerbe to step up once again.
So far this season, Ellerbe has recorded 31 tackles with 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble. Those are impressive numbers for a linebacker who hasn’t started up to this point. The Ravens lose a savvy veteran with the loss of Lewis. But what the Ravens get in return may be good enough.
“I think [Ellerbe] might be just a little bit better in the coverage aspect,” Dean Pees told reporters.
Ellerbe may be one of the better cover linebackers in the Ravens locker room, but he doesn’t stop the run as well as Jameel McClain. That could be an issue after the Ravens just gave up a franchise high in rushing yards on Sunday. The Ravens will most likely feature a rotation between McClain, Ellerbe, and McClellan. But Ellerbe has been thrust into the spotlight once again. And at least for the time being, Dannell Ellerbe believes he is doing just fine.
“I feel like I’m doing well, playing within the defense, without too many mental errors,” Ellerbe said. “I’m just out there playing good ball.”
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Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. He can be reached for comments at SamuelN870@gmail.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.