In this edition of Alabama in the Pros, we take a look at the final two defensive players on the schedule. The Baltimore Ravens reunited former Crimson Tide teammates C.J. Mosley and Courtney Upshaw after they drafted Mosley in the 2014 NFL Draft. Last season, the two helped the Ravens finish as the sixth best scoring defense and the eighth best total defense. The two enter this season back in the starting lineup and still expect big things from Baltimore.
C.J. Mosley, Baltimore Ravens, Linebacker
6’2″, 235 pounds
3 years, $7.19 million
C.J. Mosley is a fan-favorite in Tuscaloosa, for good reason. Mosley stayed at Alabama for all four years of eligibility and racked up on the accolades as a collegiate athlete. He was named to the All-American team twice and won the Dick Butkus Award in his senior season when he was the team captain. The Ravens took Mosley with the 17th overall pick and he immediately had an impact on the defense.
He started all 16 games at the inside linebacker position in his rookie season, getting to play next to Terrell Suggs. Mosley finished the season with a team-high 133 tackles, adding three sacks, two interceptions and a forced fumble. He was the only player in the entire league to have 125 tackles with three sacks and two interceptions. Mosley was unanimously selected to the All-Rookie team and became the first player in Ravens’ history to make the Pro Bowl as a rookie. The Theodore-native also started both playoff games and lead Baltimore with 19 total tackles, helping the Ravens hold opponents to just 87 total rushing yards in those two games. Mosley actually played those two games, along with the final four regular season games, with a broken wrist and needed offseason surgery to repair it.
Mosley enters 2015 with the Ravens hoping to build off of his rookie season. He says he is 100 percent after surgery and has been fully participating in training camp and preseason games. Mosley has always impressed his coaches and teammates with his attitude and work ethic both on and off the field. Coach John Harbaugh says that he does not expect any sort of sophomore slump from Mosley. Mosley has recorded eight total tackles in the preseason and is expected to sit in the finale against the Falcons. The Ravens regular season will begin on September 13 against the Broncos and Mosley will be expected to help stop Peyton Manning and the high-powered Denver offense.
Courtney Upshaw, Baltimore Ravens, Linebacker
6’2″, 272 pounds
1 year, $1.68 million
Courtney Upshaw was another star defensive player for the Crimson Tide that stayed in Tuscaloosa for four years. He was a part of Nick Saban’s first full recruiting class and helped Alabama win two national championships. In the 2012 BCS National Championship against LSU, Upshaw lead a near-perfect defensive performance. He went on to win the Defensive MVP for the game, finishing with seven tackles and a sack. Upshaw was a second-round draft pick by the Ravens in 2012 and was a part of a defense that helped Baltimore win the Super Bowl in Ray Lewis’ final season. Upshaw finished his rookie campaign with 60 total tackles, 1.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery while playing in all 16 regular season games and starting the final nine. The Ravens kept Upshaw at the starting role throughout most of 2013 but he saw a decrease in statistics, recording just 30 total tackles and 1.5 sacks. Last season, Upshaw started 14 games in Baltimore and once again saw numbers that didn’t improve on his rookie season, finishing with 42 tackles and no sacks.
Over the past three seasons, Upshaw has proven himself as a force against the run but his pass rushing skills must see improvement before he can be considered among the elite linebackers in the league. He knows that his production as a player doesn’t boil down to just stats but he also knows that he can do better against the pass. Upshaw would like to see his sack numbers rise so he can play on the defense full-time. He is currently listed as the starter at left outside linebacker but Elvis Dumervil is used when Baltimore needs a pass rush. Dumervil and Suggs combined for 29 sacks last season and Upshaw would love to be a part of that.
Upshaw has recorded six total tackles in the 2015 preseason, including 2 tackles for a loss. He will be asked to help handle running back C.J. Anderson in the season opener in Denver.
Caleb Turrentine is a contributor at Touchdown Alabama Magazine. Follow him on Twitter, @CalebTurrentine.