Rookie linebacker Courtney Upshaw ran into problems in the early weeks of his first NFL season.
First, there were the conditioning issues. He came into camp a little heavy, didn't pass the conditioning test the first time and had trouble keeping his weight down the first few weeks. But then he began putting everything together.
And now, in a season where the Ravens are needing help from a bunch of different players on defense, Upshaw has stepped up. He's really helped as the defense has fared better in the last few weeks, helping the Ravens win all three games since the bye week.
The Ravens expected a lot from Upshaw, who came to them from Alabama. He had to start at first due to the injury to Terrell Suggs. But Suggs came back for the Houston game, and Upshaw then began coming off the bench and seemed to play better.
He's made 10 tackles and had an interception in the last three weeks as the Ravens improved to 8-2 and took a two-game lead over the Steelers in the AFC North. However, the Ravens have been using Upshaw in different ways and putting him in different spots. He had a good game in the 55-20 rout of Oakland and the 13-10 win over the Steelers.
"Here’s our top pick – our defensive player that we picked as our first pick – and he’s played a number of different positions," coach John Harbaugh said to the media the day after the Oakland game. "Obviously, he’s been getting better every single week. He’s a smart football player. He’s a physical football player."
The return of Suggs probably helps all of that. The Ravens can move Upshaw around if they want. They even put him in as a lineman, but his quickness and strength give the Ravens a lot of options, something they probably were hoping for when they drafted him