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Will the Ravens have a top five defense in 2012? If not can they still win it all?
We as Baltimore Ravens fans can sugar coat it any way we need to make ourselves feel better but eventually we are going to have to face the facts. This defense may no longer be dominant.
The Ravens defense still has plenty of star power on it with veterans like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Bernard Pollard and Haloti Ngata. They have a good group of up and coming talent with guys like Lardarius Webb, Courtney Upshaw, Jimmy Smith and Danelle Ellerbe and they have a great group of role players like Paul Kruger and Brendan Ayanbadejo but for some reason things just aren't the same this season.
The Ravens are getting passed all over like it's going out of style. We have had trouble on 3rd and shorts, 3rd and mediums and 3rd and longs. The team just can't get that big stop when they need to in what would consider a bend but don't break defense. Sure the changing of the referees can't make things easy on them but it is hard to believe that a defense with this much talent can not stop rookie quarterback Branden Weedon from throwing for 300+ yards. I see the return of the three man rush in 3rd and long situations has reared it's ugly head again. Let's just not try that against the Steelers with the game on the line, okay?
We all knew that as we put more money and draft stock into the offense and Ed Reed and Ray Lewis got a bit older we would step back a bit as a defensive unit but this is worse than even I expected. Right now the Arizona Cardinals, Houston Texans, San Fransisco 49ers and possibly Seattle Seahawks' defenses may be more feared then our own.
Of course not all that is happening here can be shown in pure stats or written on a piece of paper for everyone to read. One factor in the defense struggling of late is that the offense is putting teams in positions in which they need to be aggressive and move the ball on almost every drive. In the past the Ravens would gladly settle in for a ground and pound defensive struggle in which a turn over could decide the victor of the game. Now, it seems turnovers are seen as minor hiccups only to be overcome by the next 90 yard scoring drive.
Also, as if it hasn't been said enough, the Ravens are without one of the best pass rushers in the league. A man that other teams used to set their whole offensive game plan around. Allowing other players to break free for big time plays. We just don't have that this year.
I'll I heard in the preseason was that we shouldn't worry about the pass rush because new defensive coordinator Dean Pees was the master of disguise and would never give a team a good look at the coverages we are running. Okay, maybe I've seen a little of that but not enough.
I watched coach Pees on One Winning Drive the other day and he was actually pleased with the pressure the defense has brought thus far this season. Well, I'm not. We may be getting pressure but it's only enough to make the quarterback hurry his throw that will end up as a first down on third and eight. Not the in-your-face, straight off the snap, down after down relentless Ravens pressure we are used to seeing. If we are not getting to the quarterback, bring more guys!! If they don't get to him, bring more guys!! We can't continue to give NFL caliber quarterbacks all the time in the world to throw the ball.
It is still early but we need to find a way to get at the opposing quarterback much quicker, with out a doubt. If we want to win it all that's what we will need. We may be able to match up with the Texans but not if Joe Flacco spends half the game being pile driven into the ground and Matt Shaub stands untouched the whole game. Heck, even Matt Cassel can find an open man in 6 seconds...