During the 2012 season the Ravens defense was noticeably slower than the majority of their opponents on defense. The usually stout group ranked in the bottom half of the league statistically for the first time in about a decade. This fact did not go unnoticed by the front office, thank goodness.
Over the past few seasons the Ravens have concentrated on getting faster on offense, bringing in players like Torrey Smith, Ray Rice and Jacoby Jones. This has helped the Ravens go from an offensively inept squad to one that has big play ability. In turn, opposing defenses are forced to play Baltimore straight up and cannot sell out on the run or short comeback routes. In short, it has made a world of difference just having the threat of speed on offense.
Now, with the retirement of Ray Lewis and the loss of Ed Reed to Houston, Baltimore is able to add some speed to those all so important positions on the defensive side of the ball and that is exactly what they did. First the team brought in speedy and versatile Michael Huff from the Oakland Raiders to play free safety in Reed's departure. Then the used their first round draft pick to snatch up another speedy and versatile safety in,big hitter, Matt Elam from Florida. Both safeties are capable of dropping into man coverage and Huff even played corner last season for the Raiders. As much as Reed brought to the table with his ball hawking skills,having two safeties that can match up with tight ends and wide receivers one on one will completely change the Ravens defense in 2013. This is a huge step in an NFL that is clearly turning into a pass happy, high scoring league.
Baltimore used their second round pick on inside linebacker Arthur Brown who is widely considered the best coverage linebacker in the draft this year. Like Lewis, Brown is a bit undersized standing at 6'0" but what he is missing in size he more than makes up for in speed, toughness and athletic ability. These are all traits the Ravens sorely needed on defense after last seasons performance.
I'm sure it will take some time for all of these new players to figure out how to best play with each other. The instincts of Lewis and Reed can never be matched by a rookie. However, the Ravens are moving on with the times and not a second too late. This should be a very exciting squad to watch this season.