One of the most undeveloped storylines this season, in my opinion, has been the drop in playing time by Tully Banta-Cain. Banta-Cain started the season as the starting right outside linebacker.
After one game, Banta-Cain was removed as the starting base 3-4 outside linebacker, having been replaced by rookie second round pick Jermaine Cunningham. Still, Banta-Cain saw some time in the base defense. Heading into yesterday's game, Banta-Cain had still played over 80% of the snaps.
But yesterday, Banta-Cain, from a first-view judgement, saw no playing time in the base 3-4. He saw some snaps as a right defensive end in sub-packages. The drop in playing time was noticeable, although it could have been due to the fact that the team ran a lot more base 3-4, as the Ravens are a power running football team. However, I should point out that Shawn Crable received more playing time than Banta-Cain in the sub-packages.
The thing that has me a little bit confused about Banta-Cain's drop in playing time is that he played very well the first two weeks of the season. He was constantly generating pressure as both a rush end and outside linebacker. He didn't appear to have any lapses in coverage or anything like that.
My question becomes: What is the underlying reason for the gradual decrease in playing time for Tully Banta-Cain?
I sincerely doubt it could be a locker room issue; Banta-Cain is both a good citizen and a leader. Jermaine Cunningham and Rob Ninkovich have both played very well this year. Both should be seeing significant playing time and/or starting roles. I believe that these two are very capable, and should be cutting into Tully Banta-Cain's playing time significantly. However, should they be cutting out Banta-Cain's role entirely? Do you like the way Bill Belichick has substituted the outside linebackers?