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Ravens LB Chris Board: The Next Undrafted Fixture Of Baltimore's Defense?

August 3, 2019
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- There was Bart Scott, and Jameel McClain, and Dannell Ellerbe, and Albert McClellan, and Zach Orr, and Patrick Onwuasor. And now there is Chris Board, who is looking increasingly likely to become the latest in a long line of undrafted linebackers to become a fixture in the Ravens' defense.

With the loss of four-time Pro Bowl pick C.J. Mosley to free agency, the Ravens had a glaring hole in the middle of their defense. Onwuasor, last year's weak-side starter, has succeeded Mosley at middle linebacker, leaving his former spot vacant. 

The job was considered a tossup between Board and Kenny Young, a fourth-round pick a year ago, but through the first week of training camp, Board has taken virtually all the reps with the starters. 

A starting spot in Year Two after totaling 14 defensive snaps as a rookie would be quite the rapid ascent for Board, an Orlando native who won three NCAA championships at North Dakota State and practiced against current Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz every day for two years. 

But more than his college trophy shelf, or the pedigree of his former teammates, what has stood out to Ravens coaches is Board's speed.

"He can run. I mean, my goodness, he can run," defensive coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale said earlier this summer. "He played out in a lot of space at North Dakota State really as a nickel ... and his instincts are really showing up as an inside 'backer."

Board was listed at 6-foot-2 and 229 pounds last year and he said he has added about 8 to 10 pounds this year. 

"He bulked up with some muscle and kept all his speed," linebackers coach Mike Macdonald said. 

"He's got a really good command of what we're asking him to do, communicates well," Macdonald added, "and when you turn the tape on, his speed's just hard to ignore."

At his North Dakota State Pro Day, Board ran the 40-yard dash in 4.60 seconds, the same time that Young registered at the NFL Scouting Combine. 

Still, the odds were against Board last season, as they are against every undrafted rookie trying to crack the 53-man roster. Board said he knew his ticket would be on special teams, and the Ravens' strong background in that area was the reason Board chose Baltimore instead of four or five other teams interested in signing him. 

"I knew coming in that I had to play special teams, so I really focused on that throughout camp last year," he said.

Board admitted it was "pretty nerve-racking" waiting on the final cut-down day to see whether he'd stick around, and he was ultimately one of three undrafted rookies to make last year's initial 53-man roster. (He is the only one still with the organization; the others were kick returner-receiver Janarion Grant and defensive back Darious Williams.)

Board ended up playing in all 16 games as rookie, almost exclusively on special teams, registering a team-high 12 special teams tackles. 

Board won't have to sweat out the final-cutdown day this year, but as an undrafted player, he said he isn't about to get complacent about the depth chart. 

"My mentality is just compete every day, and put my best foot forward, and whatever happens, happens," he said. "I am running with the [starters] right now, but ... there's nothing guaranteed in this business, so you have to earn it every day. I'm out here competing every day."

Follow Bo on Twitter @bsmolka

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox