McClain Takes ILB Lead

Jameel McClain is at the forefront of the Ravens’ linebacking battle.

Posted by Mike Duffy on Wednesday, August 4th, 2010 at 6:57 pm | Categories: 2010 Training Camp, Mike Duffy

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It’s somewhat surprising to see Jameel McClain line up with the starters alongside middle linebacker Ray Lewis, but that’s exactly how Ravens training camp has gone thus far.

Throughout the first week of camp, it’s been McClain’s No. 53 with Baltimore’s first-team defense even though he had rarely played there before.

Last season, Tavares Gooden, a third-round draft pick in 2008, started 12 games there. Dannell Ellerbe, known as more of a thumper in the run game, then finished the season with five starts.

Even in spring minicamps, it seemed to be a race between Gooden and Ellerbe… that is, until McClain shot to the top of the Ravens’ first preseason’s depth chart.

With his added time, McClain looks to be in peak condition and strong against both the run and the pass.

McClain always showed he was a willing special teamer – finishing second on the team with 33 special teams stops in 2009 – but his defensive prowess in camp might make him the revelation of the summer.

Even though McClain has seen more time with the ones, he isn’t taking his current situation for granted.

As a former undrafted free agent and undersized defensive lineman at Syracuse, McClain is used to fighting for a job.

“Just to be able to showcase my abilities as a football player, it’s definitely good to do that, but it’s an open competition,” he explained.  ”My job is to show that I can play this game to the fullest.

“At the end of the day, it’s a bunch of good football players.  As far as the competition, we just go out there and play our hardest.  We’re all friends. We all chill together.  But we all know it’s the coach’s decision, and the best man is going to play.  The linebacker group is pretty deep.”

On Tuesday, McClain led a rush up the middle that forced Marc Bulger to hurry a throw that safety Haruki Nakamura intercepted. He continued that disruption on Wednesday and was again next to No. 52.

With Gooden and Ellerbe nipping at his heels, McClain is staying focused on the task at hand.

“I’m a guy that’s never been given anything,” McClain said.  ”I was never voted as anybody’s favorite in the beginning anyway. So it’s always been earned. So I’m not really the type of guy to pay attention to anything that’s been said.”

Both Gooden and Ellerbe have played with the ones at different points in camp, while Brendon Ayanbadejo, who started one game at the “jack” linebacker position, has not been able to practice yet because he is recovering from a thigh injury.

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