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Bright Future Ahead for Ravens (Part 2: Defense)

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Perhaps there is no better a time to discuss how loaded the Baltimore Ravens’ defense is and will be for years to come. On the heels of breaking news concerning one-year stand out Defensive Coordinator Chuck Pagano’s acceptance of Indy’s head coaching job, Ravens fans should take comfort knowing that many Defensive Coordinators have come and gone throughout the years and yet, the Ravens continue to set the standard for hard nosed, old school, down right nasty defensive play. The Baltimore Ravens’ front office does as good a job, or better, than anyone at finding defensive gems in both the draft or free agency and this largely contributes to the defense’s and team’s overall success.

Yesterday I focused on young Ravens stand-outs on offense, so today I thought we could take a look at a few of the younger players on defense to get a taste of some of the things that we all have to look forward to. Like before, I’ll do some 2012 "projections" as well for a bit of fun.

  • Lardarius Webb: The 3rd year CB out of Nicholls State has quickly sky-rocketed himself into full-on stardom. After early doubts in his career and suffering an injury his rookie season, the former 3rd round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft put together an absolutely stellar campaign this season. Webb, despite his smaller stature, is extremely versatile while excelling at man coverage, no matter the caliber of receiver he is lined up across from. He has shown a penchant for both reading and baiting QBs as evidenced by his 8 INTs this season. Not only does Webb excel in coverage, but he is also very adept at blitzing and has become one of the most solid tacklers on a team that features two future Hall of Fame caliber players in both Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. His contributions to special teams should not be over-looked either, as he also serves as the Ravens’ primary punt returner. Simply put, Lardarius Webb is a complete football player.

2011 Regular Season Stats: 54 solo tackles. 20 PDef. 5 INTs

2012 "Projected" Regular Season Stats: 60 solo tackles. 22 PDef. 7 INTs

  • Jimmy Smith: Although hampered by an injury very early this season, Jimmy Smith played very solid football in this, his rookie year. Projected as a potential "shut-down corner", the Ravens drafted the 6 ft. 1 in. 210 lbs CB out of Colorado in the 1st round of the 2011 NFL Draft. Smith still has "shut-down" credentials despite looking a bit lost in coverage and missing assignments early on, but his size and natural ability were able to over come some minor problems. Cornerback is probably one of the absolute toughest positions to play in the NFL due to receivers becoming increasingly better each year along with QBs passing much, much more often. With a full off-season working on technique and perfecting the small things in his game, I expect big things from Smith who has all of the physical tools to be outstanding.

2011 Regular Season Stats: 20 solo tackles. 8 PDef. 2 INTs

2012 "Projected" Regular Season Stats: 42 solo tackles. 15 PDef. 3 INTs

  • Pernell McPhee: As a 5th round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft out of Mississippi State, I don’t think many experts or fans had even a hint of the type of season this young DE would have, but boy did he sure prove himself. With very limited playing time, on a depth chart behind veterans that make up one of the best defensive fronts in the NFL today, Pernell McPhee made his presence known every time he stepped onto the field. In the time he did get on the field, it was clear that he has a great combination of size and speed with a knack for harassing offensive lineman and QBs alike. McPhee plays with a non-stop motor and an absolutely monstrous "bull rush" that simply over powers some offensive lineman. The Ravens found an absolute stud when they chose McPhee 165th overall.

2011 Regular Season Stats: 16 solo tackles. 6 sacks. 1 FF

2012 "Projected" Regular Season Stats: 30 solo tackles. 9 sacks. 2 FF

  • Sergio Kindle: The Ravens’ 2nd pick in the 2nd round of the 2010 NFL draft out of Texas has yet to truly show his worth due to fracturing his skull after falling down a flight of stairs just weeks before his first training camp. When he was drafted, fans were elated as it seemed as though we had finally found an OLB to plug in opposite Terrell Suggs that could boost the Ravens’ pass rushing prowess. Unfortunately, everyone is still left waiting to see what the former college stand-out has to offer. Although Kindle is still a wild card, hopefully with another off season of training and healing he will be able to contribute next season.

2012 "Projected" Regular Season Stats: 15 solo tackles. 1 sack. 1 FF

Similar to the Ravens’ offense, the defense has a great mix of young talent and veteran savvy. Although Chuck Pagano is moving on for a head coaching job, I’m more than confident that the Ravens’ on-field defensive talent will remain just as dominant as it always has and I have all the faith in the world that the front office will find a capable, excellent replacement just as they always have.

Happy Friday everyone!