Should the Baltimore Ravens Be Worried About Courtney Upshaw?

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Should the Baltimore Ravens Be Worried About Courtney Upshaw?
Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Ravens don't need to be worried about Courtney Upshaw's weight gain...yet.

Last year, pre-draft concerns about Upshaw's weight were perpetuated when he failed his conditioning test in training camp, and now, those concerns have resurfaced. 

In an article posted on the team's official site in May of 2012, Upshaw told reporters he "wants to drop a little weight before the start of the season."

He ultimately achieved his goal, but a year later, the former Alabama standout has encountered a similar, but potentially more critical, weight issue. 

According to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sunthe 2012 second-round selection now weighs 285 pounds, which is up nearly 15 pounds from his playing weight last season.

Upshaw was quoted saying: 

My offseason has been kind of hectic. I had a personal issue where I had to handle that. Right now, I’m trying to get back into football shape.

I was back and forth between Alabama and Baltimore, just real personal issues that I had to handle. Just trying to drop a couple pounds and get ready for the season.

He did it once, he can do it again, right? 

Probably.

If Upshaw says he's had personal issues, and basically insinuated they're part of the reason behind his increased weight, he must be taken at his word and given a fair chance to get back into "football shape."

In reality, Upshaw's not much different than many NFL players who aren't in peak, mid-season condition when they return for OTA's and minicamps after a relatively relaxed offseason. 

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

However, the stigma surrounding Upshaw's weight will follow him for, likely, his entire career. Anytime he's at the Ravens' facility, the media will inquire about his weight to see if he's heavier than he's expected to be. 

Right now, with plenty of time to get back into shape, Upshaw's weight is basically a non-issue. 

But if he fails another conditioning test at training camp, a development that would force him to miss crucial on-field action, then the Ravens should be seriously concerned and, frankly, rightfully angered. 

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive lineman Paul Kruger was lost in free agency, but Chris Canty and Elvis Dumervil were added, two veterans who could potentially bolster the front seven from a year ago. 

Baltimore will rely on Upshaw more often in 2013 than 2012, yet he won't be thrust into a legitimate game-changing role with the amount of established depth on the defensive front.

Entering his second year, he could benefit as a pass-rusher if he sheds weight, as he lacks prototypical explosiveness off the edge. 

Then again, Upshaw proved to be a rather unique defensive end/ outside linebacker hybrid as a rookie. 

ProFootballFocus.com rated him as one of the worst pass-rushing 3-4 outside linebackers in football in 2012.

Ranking / Name PFF 2012 Pass-Rushing Grade
32.Courtney Upshaw -17.6
33. Connor Barwin -20.2
34. Erik Walden -25.5

(Rated out of 3-4 OLBs who played at least 25 percent of their respective team's snaps.)

Conversely, he trailed only Anthony Spencer of the Dallas Cowboys in terms of being effective against the run, a strength that was likely aided by a higher playing weight than most defenders at his position. 

Ranking / Name PFF 2012 Run-Stopping Grade
1. Anthony Spencer +18.9
2. Courtney Upshaw +14.8
3. James Harrison +12.1

(Rated out of 3-4 OLBs who played at least 25 percent of their respective team's snaps.)

In today's NFL, the overwhelming majority of 3-4 outside linebackers are edge-rushing, quarterback-devouring sack specialists, not run-plugged stalwarts, and Upshaw was undeniably the latter as a rookie. 

Because of that, there's a chance cutting a significant amount of weight isn't as vital to Upshaw as it is for most 3-4 outside 'backers. 

In fact, many of the league's top 3-4 defensive ends—a position that may actually suit Upshaw better—aren't much heavier than the 6'2'' Upshaw is today. 

Ranking / Name 2012 Listed Height / Weight PFF 2012 Overall Rating
5. Justin Smith 6'4'' / 285 +22/2
6. Antonio Smith 6'3'' / 272 +21.7
9. Ray McDonald 6'3'' / 276 +10.7

(Rated out of 3-4 DEs who played at least 25 percent of their respective team's snaps.)

The Ravens are aware of his physical condition, and they're probably not ecstatic with June minicamps on the horizon. 

But until his weight keeps him off the practice field, the Ravens' worry about Courtney Upshaw should be minimal. 

 

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