Starter(s): This is arguably the best group of linebackers in the league. And the player spearheading this formidable unit is the game's best defensive player: Ray Lewis. There isn't much to say about Lewis that hasn't already been said before. In Lewis, you get a player that plays with passion, precision and drive on every down. From the pure football player standpoint, Lewis is the perfect tackling machine; he rarely misses because he has such great technique, and he can diagnose plays better than any other player in the NFL. Lewis has also honed his coverage skills over the years, and is now among the top rovers at his position.
But where Lewis excels is as a leader. His passion and diligent work habits rub off on his teammates, and as a result they are able to take their games to another level. In many ways, he is another defensive coach that the players can lean on for advise in critical situations.
One of the players that Lewis has helped to groom is Hartwell. The third-year starter from little Western Illinois University has developed into one of the top run stuffers at the inside linebacker spot. He does a nice job of disengaging blocks in order to get to the ball carrier.
At the outside spots, the Ravens have one of the more deadly combinations in Boulware, Suggs and Thomas. All three players will be worked into some sort of rotation. Boulware's health is a concern; he is unlikely to register a lot of playing time at the beginning of the season following a knee surgery done in the offseason. With that being the case, the four-time Pro Bowl selection will be relegated to being a pass-rush specialist.
When healthy, Boulware is a top-level sack artist that uses a combination of moves to get past offensive tackles.
Suggs has the potential to develop into a dominant pass rusher in his own right. The NFL's defensive rookie of the year netted 12 sacks a year ago. Although he still has a tough time recognizing when to use certain moves, Suggs possesses the strength to overpower smaller tackles, and the great initial burst to run right past them after the snap.
Thomas is the jack-of-all-trades. He is a fluid athlete that excels in pass coverage situations, using his wingspan to bat passes down at the line of scrimmage. Thomas has also developed into a disruptive run stuffer, using his swiftness to penetrate into the backfield.
Backups: As impressive as the starting unit is, depth is nearly as good. Even if you don't include Thomas or Suggs in your evaluation of the backups, the Ravens can still throw out three other linebackers behind them that have started at least one game in their careers (Brown, Scott and Slaughter).
Brown is the most experienced player out of the bunch. His specialty is against the run; he's a physical player that likes to throw his body around and keep his gums flapping at the same time. The coaches could tinker with Brown's role, moving him to the inside incase a rash of injuries occur.
Scott is a promising inside linebacker that has good athleticism and recognition. Finding enough playing time for him is the hard part.
Slaughter's role should be limited to being a specialist, but he can handle the starting snaps if need be. He's a stiff player that doesn't have much versatility, but he is physical, tough and aggressive at the point of attack.
Perhaps the most intriguing prospect out of this group, let alone the entire team, is Roderick Green. Green has a freakish combination of size (6'2, 243 pounds) and speed (4.5 time in the 40), and was noted for displaying tremendous pass-rush skills at Central Missouri State. It will take some time with Green because he is raw, and will need to get used to playing against better athletes in the NFL, but he's got the tools to become a starter down the road.