Coming out of North Dakota State as an undrafted free agent last offseason, Ravens linebacker Chris Board wasn't expected to make the 53-man roster. But after exceeding expectations during the preseason -- Board led the Ravens with 30 tackles -- the rookie made the team, as years of hard work paid off.
"I knew coming in I would have to make a name for myself on special teams because I didn't have that much defensive film," Board said on
Glenn Clark Radio
June 21. "I was more of a special teams guy in college, so I knew that would have to be my trademark coming in. I knew I had to not make any mistakes and look better than pretty much everybody else that's out there."
In 2018, Board led Baltimore in special teams snaps with 356, but only saw the field on defense on 14 plays. Now, with a month until training camp begins, Board has a chance to claim a starting linebacker spot for the Ravens in 2019 as the team looks to fill the hole left by C.J. Mosley's departure to the New York Jets in free agency.
"Yes, it's definitely been a focus for me, especially training this offseason knowing that I would have the opportunity to compete for a job," Board said. "That's definitely something that I've been honing in on this spring and I'm just excited to have an opportunity to compete."
Board said his preparation this offseason hasn't been drastically different from years past. It's more about having the mentality that he will be expected to play on both special teams and defense, he said.
"To be honest, it's not that much of a transition switching from being a special teams guy to a defensive guy," he said. "Most of the stuff carries over, a lot of the different fundamentals and stuff like that really transitions over. So it's not really that much of a change. It's just more so of knowing that I'm going to be a defensive guy and a special teams guy."
At 6-foot-1 and 229 pounds, Board is the prototypical hybrid linebacker in the modern NFL, a player with speed and lateral quickness who can cover receivers and tight ends out wide or smaller, faster running backs inside.
"I pride myself on being able to cover tight ends and running backs out of the backfield," Board said. "It's definitely a passing league, especially if you see [Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick] Mahomes and all these other quarterbacks that are playing now, you have to be able to cover and lock people up in coverage."
And though quarterbacks have enjoyed record passing statistics in the recent years, the running ability of franchise quarterback Lamar Jackson will still cause significant issues for defenses across the league, Board said.
"Man, he is quick. He is pretty fast and elusive," Board said of Jackson. "It's really difficult for our defense to catch him and really pursue him, so I know it's difficult for opposing defenses to do the same."
As the Ravens' defense begins a new chapter with names like Mosley, Terrell Suggs, Eric Weddle and Za'Darius Smith no longer on the roster, Board said he has looked to veterans like linebackers Matthew Judon and Patrick "Peanut" Onwuasor and free-agent safety Earl Thomas to become the voice of the defensive unit.
"It's a lot of the vets that have been stepping up and embracing that role and leading us on that defense," Board said, especially Thomas, the nine-year veteran who came to Baltimore after an injury-shortened 2018 season in Seattle.
"Just knowing he's back there you have a Pro Bowl-type player back there, it gives you a lot of confidence to know even if you make a mistake he's right there to help you fix it," Board said of Thomas.
With training camp about a month away, Board said the disappointing loss to the Los Angeles Chargers in the wild-card round of the playoffs last season is still driving him and his teammates to make sure 2019 ends differently.
"We're definitely motivated to go even beyond where we were at last year," Board said. "We were happy to win and be division champs. I feel like we have a lot more and a lot more talent to go even further in the playoffs and compete for a Super Bowl."
For more from Board, listen to the full interview here:
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