Ravens rookie outside linebacker Antwan Barnes created some buzz among Ravens coaches during the team’s offseason workouts. A fourth-round pick from Florida International, Barnes showed a relentless attitude on the practice field and in the weight room. He even was angry at himself when he took a small misstep during a walk-through. Barnes is expected to play primarily on special teams, but he could find a role as a situational pass rusher, much like OLB Terrell Suggs did as a rookie in 2003.
Barnes could be another solid linebacker from nowhere, picked in the late rounds of the NFL Draft by GM Ozzie Newsome and Baltimore. As seen with up and coming star Adalius Thomas (6th round, Southern Miss), Bart Scott (103 tackles & 9 ½ sacks, undrafted free agent from Southern Illinois), Edgerton Hartwell (4th round, Western Illinois), and now with Jarret Johnson (4th round pick), the Baltimore Ravens thrive in drafting and picking up productive outside linebackers that are unknown. Now with Barnes from FIU, the Ravens have a 235-pound jackhammer to complement Scott, and to play alongside middle linebacker Ray Lewis.
In this successful 3-4 defense, they could use more help in swarming to the ball carrier from Barnes, a compensatory selection. He is an explosive edge pass rusher that could maybe develop down the line into another fast, Suggs-type hybrid, LB/DE. With all the eyes and focus of the offensive coordinators on other big play defenders like Suggs, Lewis, Ed Reed, Chris McAllister, and Trevor Pryce, Barnes can really run under the radar and turn into another one of those unheralded, bargain Baltimore linebackers. With Scott improving into a reliable fourth round gem, we might see Barnes go down the same path Scott went on, becoming a playmaker in Rex Ryan’s No. 1 ranked defense.