BALTIMORE - NOVEMBER 24: Paul Kruger #99 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates a sack against the San Francisco 49ers at M&T Bank Stadium on November 24. 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the 49ers 16-6. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
One of the Ravens biggest problems last season, the pass rush, has become one of their strengths seemingly overnight. The majority of the players lining up to get after the quarterback this year are the same as last year, minus Pernell McPhee and Bernard Pollard in blitzing situations. That means the change is mostly due to different schemes run by new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano.
Many fans were upset at the conclusion of last years draft when the Ravens did not select a pass rusher to compliment Terrell Suggs until the fifth round. This years draft was supposed to be the deepest in pass rushers in years. It shows now as one of the best drafted was in the fifth round to Baltimore in the person of Pernell McPhee. Two years ago Baltimore used their first pick on Sergio Kindle to help solidify the pass rush. We all know how that went, Kindle fell down a flight of stairs and has not been the same since. He has yet to make any sort of contribution to this team and there must be good reasons the Ravens are not using him even when they are short on linebackers.
This season the Ravens lead the NFL in sacks with 38 after their nine sack performance against the 49ers this week. Young players like Pernell McPhee and Paul Kruger have blossomed as real pass rushing threats under Pagano and his aggressive style of defense. Mcphee and Kruger have combined for eight and a half sacks and Suggs leads the team with nine. Haloti Ngata is second on the team with five. Ngata, an all pro on every level wanted to put more emphasis on his pass rush this season and it has paid off as he could very well reach double digits this year if he is healthy again.
With all of these players playing at such a high level it has done wonders for a Ravens secondary that was considered a project heading into the season. Suggs, the oldest of the group is in his ninth year and still has many productive years left in him. Ngata is in his sixth season and should be the corner stone of the defense for years to come. Kruger, a third year player, has developed a devastating spin move to add to his repertoire and should remain a Raven as long as his production keeps up.Rookie Pernell McPhee is quickly becoming a fan favorite and could become a premier pass rusher working with Suggs. In limited time Cory Redding has managed to produce three and a half sacks as well. Things are looking very good in Baltimore for the future even in the post Ray Lewis era.
In one season Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens front office has turned their two biggest issues into two of their biggest strengths. With the young corners and pass rushers the Baltimore is developing this defense has the players to continue their dominance for years to come. Chuck Pagano may get the head coaching nod in a few years if this keeps up. Let's hope the Ravens are developing a young coach behind him to take the reigns. Who knows maybe by then Ray Lewis will be ready to step in as a coach and Baltimore will not skip a beat.