Ravens assistant coach Zach Orr, who at age 31 oversaw one of the NFL’s best linebacker duos this season, has been named Mike Macdonald’s replacement as the team’s defensive coordinator.

Orr, who’s expected to be introduced next week, is the NFL’s second-youngest defensive coordinator, after the Arizona Cardinals’ Nick Rallis, 30. This is his first position as a coordinator.

Orr has worked under coach John Harbaugh in Baltimore for six of the past seven years. For the past two seasons, he coached the inside linebackers. Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen were Pro Bowl selections this year. Smith was named first-team All-Pro, and Queen received second-team honors.

Orr joined the Ravens in 2014 as an undrafted rookie linebacker from North Texas, where he was a three-time all-conference selection and was coached by current Ravens defensive line coach Anthony Weaver. After making the Ravens’ 53-man roster, he quickly established himself as a significant special teams contributor.

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Two years later, in 2016, he was a starting linebacker, tallying 133 tackles en route to second-team All-Pro honors. But he was forced to retire in 2017 because of a congenital neck and spine condition and transitioned into a coaching career.

“Zach is a homegrown Raven in every way,” Harbaugh said in a news release. “His energy, intelligence, work ethic and strong communication skills have been on display since the day he joined our organization as a player in 2014.”

Harbaugh continued his history of promoting from within to fill the defensive coordinator position. Although Macdonald was hired after a year at the University of Michigan, he rose through the ranks of the organization from 2014 to 2020, going from intern to linebackers coach. His predecessors — Don “Wink” Martindale, Dean Pees, Chuck Pagano and Greg Mattison — were all position coaches in the organization before being given play-calling duties.

Harbaugh chose to retain defensive coordinator Rex Ryan when the Ravens hired him as head coach in 2008. Before being named coordinator under Brian Billick, Ryan worked as the Ravens’ defensive line coach for six seasons.

Orr celebrates an interception during a 2016 game against the Philadelphia Eagles. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Smith said ahead of the Ravens’ game against the Los Angeles Rams that Orr’s experience as a player has been an inspiration.

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“Just having Z.O. in the room — former player, All-Pro player, as well, and all the great things he’s done throughout the league — just having that constant reminder, as well, I think is great,” Smith said.

In 2017, Orr started as a coaching and personnel assistant with the Ravens. He became a defensive analyst in 2019.

Two years later, he left to become the Jacksonville Jaguars’ outside linebackers coach and guided Josh Allen to 71 tackles and 7.5 sacks that season.

Orr returned to Baltimore in 2022 as the inside linebackers coach. This season, he oversaw the NFL’s only linebacker duo with both players posting at least 130 tackles. With those two patrolling the middle of the field and Smith wearing the green dot, which means he relays the coordinator’s calls, the Ravens’ defense made history, finishing first in the regular season in points per game allowed (16.5), sacks (60) and takeaways (31), as well as first in DVOA.

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“From making our team as an undrafted rookie to becoming an All-Pro linebacker, then later transitioning to an assistant coach who helped mentor multiple Pro Bowl defenders, Zach has excelled at every level of his football journey,” Harbaugh said.

The defense ranked in the top 10 in five other categories after the conclusion of its season in the AFC championship game. The Ravens finished in the top third of the league in yards allowed per game (312.8, sixth), rushing yards allowed per game (100.8, fifth), passing yards allowed per game (212.1, ninth), opponent third-down conversion percentage (35.7%, third) and opponent red-zone efficiency (43.8%, first).

During the bye week, Weaver said he wasn’t surprised by Orr’s success.

“I coached Zach Orr in college, so I knew exactly what we were going to get out of him with the linebackers, and you see how they play,” Weaver said.

Queen immediately reacted with an excited post to X, formerly known as Twitter:

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View post on X

Orr might lose Queen in free agency, but his player development skills were showcased when rookie Trenton Simpson took the field during the team’s season finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers, when many veterans were rested. After being limited to special teams for most of the season, Simpson debuted on the defense with a sack and seven tackles.

Orr’s relationship with his players was another reason for his promotion, Harbaugh said.

“He knows our players and understands our standard as well as anyone,” Harbaugh said. “I’m confident that he is prepared to take on the challenge of continuing to develop our players and scheme as our next defensive coordinator.”

The Ravens moved quickly after losing Macdonald, who was named the Seattle Seahawks’ head coach Wednesday after overseeing a dominant defense for two seasons in Baltimore. Orr is close to Macdonald, who also used to coach the Ravens’ linebackers, and had been linked to defensive coordinator vacancies in Seattle and Green Bay.

“I love Zach Orr,” Macdonald said Thursday on 105.7 The Fan’s “Inside Access.” “He is going to knock it out of the park. He is a future head coach in this league, so enjoy him while you have him. But the guys are going to play with their hair on fire and they’re going to play together, I know that. Zach understands what it looks like in Baltimore, and he connects with the players better than anyone I’ve ever been around. Zach’s going to do a tremendous job.”

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Harbaugh chose Orr over other strong in-house candidates. Weaver, who also holds the title of assistant head coach, was a finalist for the Washington Commanders’ head coaching job and has interviewed for the Miami Dolphins’ defensive coordinator job. Pass game coordinator and secondary coach Chris Hewitt interviewed for the Jacksonville Jaguars’ coordinator vacancy, for which he was passed over. And defensive backs coach Dennard Wilson, who’s expected to be named the Tennessee Titans’ defensive coordinator, was in the mix for other play-calling jobs.

While Orr will have multiple All-Pros to work with, including 2023 first-teamers Smith and safety Kyle Hamilton, his defense also has a number of key contributors set to hit free agency. In addition to Queen, there are Pro Bowler Justin Madubuike; safety Geno Stone, who finished second in the league in interceptions; outside linebackers Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy, who ranked second and third on the Ravens for sacks; and depth defensive backs Arthur Maulet, Ronald Darby, Rock Ya-Sin and Daryl Worley.

Baltimore Banner reporter Jonas Shaffer contributed to this story.