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The Ravens are not who they have been so far in the run defense game but there are some reasons for optimism.
Well, as most NFL analysts and bloggers and what not had predicted heading into the 2012 NFL season has happened to the Baltimore Ravens defense but that doesn't mean things are going to stay that way.
Sure, it's true. The Ravens lost a good 50% of their premium run defenders in the off season and I'm surprised more teams have not followed the Chiefs game plan and really put the screws to their replacements. Sure, Haloti Ngata, Ray Lewis, Jameel McClain and Danelle Ellerbe are still there and they will get their plays. However the play of Terrance Cody has been dipping below adequate of late, so much so that he is basically splitting time with Ma'ake Kemoeatu who has been exposed on occasion as well.
Then there are the replacements. The loss of Cory Redding, Jarret Johnson and Terrell Suggs left some holes to be filled and the Ravens have used many different players in all kinds of situations to replace them. The starting duo at outside linebacker seems to be set with Paul Kruger, who has shown some great play of late, and Courtney Upshaw who is steadily improving as well. Also, Albert McClellan has been used frequently all over the place from rush end to outside linebacker himself.
To replace Redding the Ravens have gone with a platoon of Arthur Jones and Pernell McPhee. McPhee gets the majority of the snaps by far most likely because he is capable of creating pressure on the quarterback even though Jones sets the edge a bit better in the running game.
It's not that these players are not as good or as capable as Johnson or Suggs it's that, in the NFL, it is hard to replace chemistry that has been built over years of playing together and struggling together. Ray Lewis and Jarret Johnson and Suggs probably didn't have to talk to each other to communicate what was going on. Now, everything is a learning experience for this new group and they will have to figure out how to play together just as the players have done for years here in Baltimore.
In a salary cap world these things are going to happen. Teams are forced to turn over. It's stay young or be irrelevant in the new game. I have faith in Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens coaching staff that these guys will get better as the season wears on. There was clear evidence of that in the second half of the Kansas City Chiefs game this past Sunday. The good guys came out on fire in the second half and shut down the run, forcing Matt Cassel to throw and turn the ball over and eventually get himself knocked out of the game.
It's looking more likely that Terrell Suggs will be back at some point this season. The team just has to learn to do it without him for now. They are still more than capable on defense to keep the opposing team from scoring as much as our offense should each week. That is all that really matters in the end. Dean Pees just needs to get these guys together and get them on the same page. Or else the script has been written on how to beat us. Press our receivers and run the ball. Let's hope we can adjust to their adjustments and stay one step ahead.