The Baltimore Ravens have always been synonymous with the word "defense" in the NFL. When opponents saw the Ravens on their schedule, they knew they were in for a slug-fest and expect the hard-hitting defense to make you earn every single yard against them. Games between Baltimore and the Pittsburgh Steelers were the type of defensive street brawls that made the old-school purists proud.
Flash forward to 2013 and the defense is now being looked at as a mere shell of its former self. Six starters from the Super Bowl Champs are gone, and that group really didn't jell until they limped into the playoffs. Ray Lewis will not be in the middle of the defense for the first time in team history, and five other key starters have moved on for various reasons.
In their place will be guys who were either reserves in the past from this roster, or are going to be wearing the Ravens colors for the first time in their careers. Questions remain about the two inside linebacker positions as well as the two safety spots.
Ray Lewis and Dannell Ellerbe are expected to be replaced by a committee consisting right now of Jameel McClain, Brendon Ayanbadejo, Josh Bynes and perhaps another veteran free agent and future draft pick. Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard are gone, with James Ihedigbo expected to be the strong safety with the free safety position up in the air, although rumors of veteran free agent Michael Huff being wooed by the team. The Ravens are expected to look for a safety in the draft but also have promising youngsters Christian Thompson and Omar Brown to compete for the position.
The defensive line will have a new look, with Chris Canty and Marcus Spears being able to both stuff the run and add pressure to the quarterback. However, the clear upgrade was the shocking signing of former Denver Broncos linebacker Elvis Dumervil. Dumervil will take the place of Paul Kruger, who took the money and ran to the Cleveland Browns.
Ironically, the Ravens will be paying Dumervil a lot less than the $40 million over five years that Kruger got from Cleveland. While Elvis is not the best at stopping the run nor dropping into pass coverage, he is one of the best at getting to the quarterback and bookended with Terrell Suggs now give the Ravens one of the most fearsome pass rushing duos in the NFL.
With Dumervil, Suggs, Haloti Ngata, as well as Lardarius Webb, Corey Graham, and Jimmy Smith, the Ravens have a defense filled with solid veterans and younger players with huge upsides. Before you drop the Ravens from the list of the better defenses in the NFL, perhaps you should wait and see what this new-look squad can do to disrupt opponent's offense, while bringing a much higher-powered offense to the field than ever before.