In a season where the injury bug has bitten so many linebackers, the return of Dannell Ellerbe couldn't have come at a better time.
Ellerbe returned after missing three games and helped the defense shut down Eli Manning and the New York Giants last Sunday. He finished with a team-high five tackles as the Ravens turned in a dominating performance in their 33-14 win.
The Ravens already had lost starters Ray Lewis and Jameel McClain at linebacker. In addition, Ellerbe sat out those previous three games with an ankle injury. Albert McClellan was held out of the New York game also, meaning that four of the team's top linebackers have missed time this year.
The return of Ellerbe, however, really helped the Ravens. This has been Ellerbe's best season. He ranks second on the team with a total of 81 tackles despite missing those three games. He was all over the field against the Giants, and that really gave the defense a lift.
"Ellerbe played well," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said in a press conference on Monday. "Dannell has played well all year when he's played, and getting him healthy is a big plus for our defense."
The Ravens are going to need Ellerbe for the final part of this season, especially the playoffs. Lewis was put back on to the 53-man roster this week, but he won't play in Sunday's season finale against the Bengals, and his status for the playoffs remains unclear.
McClain is out for the season and on IR with a spinal cord contusion, and McClellan's status also is up in the air. That's why Ellerbe could play a very big role to what's become a very thin group at linebacker. This could be the time for Ellerbe to really step up and show what he can do -- and the Ravens would probably be glad to see that.