Courtney Upshaw’s ups and downs
Courtney Upshaw played a key role as a rookie in 2012, holding his own playing opposite Paul Kruger while Terrell Suggs rehabbed a torn Achilles tendon. Upshaw played 708 snaps in 2012 and was poised to take over a larger role with Kruger heading to Cleveland in free agency.
Upshaw dealt with some personal issues during his first offseason, was noticeably overweight when he showed up to 2013s OTAs. The chance to pick up one of the NFL’s premiere pass rushers, Elvis Dumervil, unexpectedly fell into the Ravens lap and they didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger to sign him. Dumervil is primarily used on passing downs, but it did cut down on Upshaw’s playing time.
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The Crimson Tide alum saw his snaps drop from 708 in 2012, to 613 in 2013. In perspective, Terrell Suggs played 867 snaps last season, and Dumervil 533.
Among 3-4 OLBs in the NFL, Upshaw excelled in stopping the run and setting the edge. He ranked second as a rookie with a 9.9% run stop percentage. In 2013 he slipped down all the way near the bottom, just a 2.9% RS%. Suggs led the league at his position with 11.3%.
Pass rushing doesn’t appear to be one of Upshaw’s strengths despite the Ravens hopes that he would get more opportunities with the departed Kruger. Pro Football Focus listed his pass rush productivity (sacks, hits and hurries relative to the pass rush snaps they play) at 5.4 in 2012. Paul Kruger led the league at his position at 12.2. Upshaw posted a 6.0 PRP in 2013, but well short of what should be expected. Elvis Dumervil was second best at his position at 15.1.
While his pass rushing leaves some more to be desired, his dropping into coverage skills are getting better. In 101 coverage snaps in 2012, he allowed nine catches. In 130 coverage snaps last year, just seven catches. Overall, PFF ranks him near the top as far as coverage goes.
Entering his third season, what are the expectations for Upshaw? His position isn’t likely to change despite rumors last year that they wanted to try him at inside linebacker. He gets overshadowed by Dumervil because sacks make headlines rather than just being a solid run stuffer. The addition of Dumervil cut into his playing time and if Upshaw doesn’t show improvement in 2014, Pernell McPhee is going to cut into his playtime as well. McPhee saw 89 running snaps in 2013 and posted a 9.0 RS%, which if he played enough to qualify would put him in the top five in the league.
Same thing in the pass rush department for McPhee. He posted a 9.8 PRP in 189 rushes last year, which would put him in the top 15.
McPhee as the number four OLB on the depth chart saw 288 snaps. McPhee and Upshaw should be one of the camp battles that garner a lot of attention. If we see even less of Upshaw on the field this year, you have to start thinking “bust” as the Ravens first pick in 2012 begins to fizzle out.
Expectations for Upshaw, being a first selection guy with the Alabama pedigree, I want to see him get back to 2012 form. He will be counted on as the complement to Dumervil. He’s the run stopper, Doom is the pass rusher. I’d like to see Upshaw get back to that 9.0%+ run stop number and combine that with the top notch pass rushing when Dumervil’s number is called. That would make a nice little platoon at that spot.
Pernell McPhee appears to be making his case to be that complement to Dumervil. If that happens, Coach Harbaugh has to bite the bullet and get the better player the bulk of the snaps, even if it means relegating your former first pick to under 300 snaps.
Mike was born on the Eastern Shore, raised in Finksburg, and currently resides in Parkville. In 2009, Mike graduated from the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. Mike became a Baltimore City Fire Fighter in late 2010. Mike has appeared as a guest on Q1370, and FOX45. Now a Sr. Ravens Analyst for BSL, he can be reached at [email protected]