Jackson: Young ILBs Need To Step Up

McClain, Ellerbe and Tavares Gooden could be the answer after Ray Lewis hangs ‘em up.

Posted by Ryan Mink on Friday, June 10th, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Categories: Ryan Mink

Former Ravens linebacker Brad Jackson played next to Ray Lewis for three seasons.
So while he knows full well how incredible he is, even Jackson knows “father time calls all of us.”
That’s why Jackson is looking to Jameel McClain, Dannell Ellerbe and Tavares Gooden to ultimately become the next Ravens inside linebackers.
“Is this Ray’s curtain call? You never know,” Jackson said. “At some point in time, we’re going to need two of those three guys to step up.”

McClain started 15 of 16 games next to Lewis in 2010 and seems to be a logical part of the long-term puzzle. He had a career season, making 71 tackles and one sack, and was rewarded with a second-round tender by the organization.
That not only means McClain will make more money in 2011, but it’s a sign that the front office believes the former undrafted free agent has far outperformed his draft position. McClain took the “compliment” to heart.
Jackson, who has spoken with McClain this offseason, believes the success won’t go to McClain’s head.
“Now he’s just got to go out and prove he’s worth it, and I think he will,” Jackson said. “I love Jameel. I like his blue collar attitude; he plays like he’s still got something to prove. Money’s not going to change him. He’s going to be the same guy from Philly who knows how to do his job.”
So if McClain is taking one inside linebacker spot, who will take the other when Lewis decides to hang it up?
Jackson said it would likely come down to Ellerbe, a 2009 undrafted free agent, and Gooden, a 2008 third-round pick.

Gooden has been plagued by injuries during his short career, forcing him to miss 12 games in 2008, four in 2009 and six in 2010. The Miami alum was originally dubbed Lewis’ successor, and has shown flashes of his talent, but hasn’t found consistency.
“That was the book on him coming out of college,” Jackson said of Gooden’s injuries.

Then there’s Ellerbe, who came on as a starter at the end of 2009, but saw less playing time last season. Ellerbe made one start in 2010 and his tackles fell from 41 to 31. He was inactivated at one point.
“He’s the same thing as Jameel,” Jackson said. “He’s just not as fast, not as big. But he’s the same kind of worker. I remember how I was as a young, knucklehead linebacker.”
Ellerbe didn’t do himself a favor in last year’s preseason when he showboated into the end zone after an interception in St. Louis. Head Coach John Harbaugh stormed down the sidelines, grabbed Ellerbe and let him know it was unacceptable.
He also had a couple costly penalties on special teams, the types of mistakes that bug Harbaugh, a former special teams coach.
But there’s plenty of talent in the Georgia product, as evidenced in 2009. Jackson pointed out the Ravens’ regular-season finale in Oakland, in which Ellerbe notched a critical interception and fumble recovery to boost Baltimore into the playoffs.
“He’s always around the ball. That’s one thing you notice about him,” Jackson said. “It’s a matter of doing his job all the time and being disciplined.”

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