The Baltimore Ravens have always been synonymous with great defensive football, riding the coattails of one of the best defenses in league history to a Super Bowl title in 2000 and boasting legendary defensive players like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. Over the past couple seasons, however, the Ravens' defense prowess has been on a steady decline. Despite winning another Super Bowl last season, the Ravens ranked 29th in the league against the run and 17th in total defense.
Although they did struggle during the regular season, the defense seemed to come together and play extremely well during their improbable postseason run, probably due to the impact of veteran leaders like Ed Reed and Ray Lewis. Reed and Lewis (along with a few other starters from the 2012 squad), however, are no longer with the team and the Ravens will need to find other answers for the defensive woes they experienced last season.
The Ravens made a lot of moves on the defensive side of the ball this offseason, the biggest of which was the addition of OLB Elvis Dumervil due to a fax snafu in Denver. While Dumervil will certainly wreak havoc as an edge rusher opposite Terrell Suggs, I think the addition of DT/DE Chris Canty will make the greatest impact on the Ravens defense this year.
Canty is very athletic for an interior lineman and can move quickly down the line of scrimmage on off-tackle runs and sweeps. He is also an extremely underrated pass rusher, his athleticism should allow the Ravens to move him all over the defensive line and it will open up all sorts of personnel package possibilities in conjunction with players like Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Courtney Upshaw, and Pernell McPhee. Reports from Ravens' OTAs have indicated that Canty looks extremely explosive and athletic and has even shed a few pounds. Durability could be a question for Canty as he missed the first six games for the Giants last season due to an MCL sprain and missed the final game of the season after re-injuring the same knee. If Canty's knee can hold up and he can stay on the field this season, look for remarkable improvement in the Ravens' defensive rankings this year.