A new dawn has descended upon the Baltimore Ravens.
Out are cornerstones and standouts such as pass rusher Terrell Suggs, linebacker C.J. Mosley, safety Eric Weddle and quarterback Joe Flacco.
In are safety Earl Thomas and running back Mark Ingram.
However, there are also Ravens that remain and will now be looked upon to take on more prominent roles, whether it be on the field, in the locker room or both.
Linebacker Patrick Onwuasor is a Raven who remains and he’s ready to step up for Baltimore and take the next step forward in his career.
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"It’s going to hurt us a little bit," the 26-year-old Onwuasor told the Baltimore Sun’s Mike Preston. "Those guys were the leaders from the first day, but [Suggs] said it is time for the new breed, that it’s time for us to start our own legacy and carry on the tradition of playing great defense."
Much ado has been made about the forthcoming sophomore season of quarterback Lamar Jackson and the Ravens’ run-heavy approach that will have the youngster as the centerpiece, along with Ingram.
Still, the Ravens have long been regarded for their defense and they must overcome some lofty losses, including defensive end Za’Darius Smith, who signed with the Packers.
Onwuasor, a weakside linebacker who filled in for Mosley when the latter was injured last season, is 26 and entering his fourth season in the NFL. For the most part, returning starters on the Ravens defense are much like Onwuasor: young and presumably entering the prime of their careers.
Only defensive tackle Brandon Williams (30, entering seventh season, 16 starts last season) and defensive back Brandon Carr (32, 12th season, 16 starts) are 30 or older among the returners.
The defensive backfield of safety Tony Jefferson, 27, who is entering his seventh season and third with Baltimore, Thomas and Carr will be the most experienced group on the defense.
Defensive tackle Chris Wormley (25, entering third season, six starts last season), defensive end Brent Urban (27, sixth season, 16 starts), defensive end Matt Judon (26, fourth season, eight starts) and cornerback Marlon Humphrey (22, third season, eight starts) are right there with Onwuasor as those in line to carry on the Ravens’ defensive tradition while establishing themselves as flag bearers.
"Now I have to become a leader, because guys like Siz and C.J. were our leaders for so long," Onwuasor said.
Looking to return to the playoffs and repeat as AFC North champions in a division boasting the suddenly superstar-laden Cleveland Browns, the remodeled Cincinnati Bengals and the revamped-yet-experienced-and-talented Pittsburgh Steelers, it’s likely nothing will come easy.
And so it goes that a new day has dawned upon the Ravens, though they are looking to maintain a standard set before them.
"I think we have a lot of young guys who can step up and become leaders," said Onwuasor, who flexed his versatility in 12 starts with 59 tackles, 5.5 sacks, eight tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles, three passes defended and an interception. "When I first got here, I was always watching guys like Siz, C.J. and [Weddle]. I wanted to learn from them. … But they are gone.
"And it’s our turn."
Weddle is in L.A., Suggs has ventured west as well to Arizona and Mosley has become a Jet. But Onwuasor and a promising flock of youngsters remain and they’re ready to lead the way.
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