In every NFL season, there are surprise players making unexpected contributions to help his team win. 2012 will be no exception. With the loss of Terrell Suggs on the Baltimore Ravens defense, this side of the ball could see multiple unknown (to the national media/casual fan, if not us) players step up and continue to help the defense remain among the best in the league. After the jump, I'll lay out a few predictions for guys I think will make a name for themselves in 2012, and a few big name guys who will expand on their reputation.
Pernell McPhee will have double digit sacks:
In limited snaps last year, McPhenom accumulated 6 sacks and seemed to be in the opposing quarterback's face constantly. With the departure of Cory Redding and the Suggs injury, the Ravens will need the young DE to be a force in the pass rush. I think McPhee will lead the team in sacks and NFL GMs will continue to wonder just how Ozzie finds these guys.
The Ravens will lead the league in interceptions:
Lardarius Webb is becoming one of the top CBs in the NFL. in 2012 he will make his first Pro Bowl, and be a part of the best ball hawking secondary in the NFL. I believe Webb will lead the team with around 8 picks. Ed Reed will bounce back and have a typical Ed Reed year and grab 6. But some unexpected players will be a big part of the team too. With the NFL becoming more and more a passing league every year, we will need to rely on more Nickel and Dime packages. The Ravens may have the deepest secondary in the league, and while Cary Williams may not have great hands, we will see Jimmy Smith have 5 picks as teams avoid Webb, and Danny Gorrer and Corey Graham will have 3+ interceptions as well. The team had 15 interceptions last year, but got a huge jump in sacks from 2010. This year we will see a huge jump in interceptions, although the total sack number may fall. Except to see 25-30 picks from this defense.
Jameel McClain will lead the team in tackles:
Ray Lewis is the greatest MLB of all time, and one of the greatest players in NFL history. But as many opponents as he has obliterated throughout his amazing career, age will be the foe that finally gets the best of him. Ray will continue to play well and somehow, in his 17th season, remain one of the top players at his position. But he will be surpassed in tackles for the first time in his career in a season where he remains mostly healthy. When we had multiple free agents leave Baltimore after last season, it was apparent Ozzie and company put a priority on keep McClain, and he will repay that faith with over 100 tackles. He will never be the next Ray Lewis, or even his heir apparent, but he is a solid player who will help ease the transition to LAR (Life After Ray)