OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Six of the Baltimore Ravens' last seven first-round picks started as rookies. Based on how the Ravens' coaches gushed about inside linebacker C.J. Mosley on Friday, it's safe to say this trend will continue.
The Ravens see Mosley on the field on running downs. They want him out there against the pass. And they envision him helping this defense get back to a top-10 one for the first time since 2011.
Mosley comes into a situation where many believed the starters were already set. The Ravens re-signed Daryl Smith to a four-year deal this offseason and they invested a second-round pick in Arthur Brown only 13 months ago.
"There will be competition," Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees said at Mosley's introductory news conference. "We're not going to hand it to him, and he knows that. Obviously, we think he can get on the field or you wouldn't draft him in the first round."
How will the Ravens' inside linebacker situation pan out? This year, Mosley will likely start alongside Smith and learn from the 32-year-old veteran. Then, whether it's during this season or next, the Ravens will make the change and go with the athletic tandem of Mosley and Brown.
The drafting of Mosley isn't a sign that the Ravens believe Brown is a bust. The Ravens see Mosley and Brown as their long-term duo inside, and the timetable of this happening all depends on Brown's development. With the way Smith's contract is structured, the Ravens are only married to him for two seasons.
Mosley is versatile enough that he can play weakside linebacker this year and take Smith's spot in the middle in 2015. Working in Mosley's favor to make an immediate impact is his high football intelligence and his familiarity with the Ravens' defense.
When Pees spoke with Mosley at his pro day a couple of months ago, he threw a couple of terms that the Ravens use on defense.
"He kind of smiled and laughed at them because they were the exact same terms that they use at Alabama," Pees said.
Pees' connection with Alabama coach Nick Saban dates back 24 years. He was Saban's defensive coordinator at Toledo in 1990 and ran Saban's defense at Michigan State from 1995 to 1997. Both Pees and Saban are known for running multiple defenses.
"Sometimes it's not a great fit when people come here and they've played in the same one front and one coverage all the time," Pees said. "This guy hasn't. He's had to control the front and make those calls and make those checks up front. That's one of the things that I really, really liked about the system that he came from."
It doesn't sound like the Ravens are going to easy Mosley into the defense as a part-time player. Last year, the Ravens would use Jameel McClain or Josh Bynes on running downs and sub in Brown on passing situations.
Pees scoffed at reports he read that described Mosley as a better defender against the run than the pass.
"I don't think we'd draft a guy who couldn't be on the field for three downs," he said. "This guy is a three-down linebacker, there's no question about it. I wouldn't take him off the field against any passing team."
This is the fifth straight year in which the Ravens' top pick has been a defensive player. The Ravens are hoping Mosley is the key piece to getting the defense back on track.
After nine straight years of ranking in the top 10, the Ravens' defense finished 17th in 2012 and 12th last season.
"We want to get back to the top on defense," Pees said, "and we think this is the guy right here who can lead us in that direction."