The Baltimore Ravens have obviously had many changes this off-season, most of which came from the defensive side of the ball. The Ravens lost guys like:
- LB Ray Lewis
- S Ed Reed
- S Bernard Pollard
- LB Dannell Ellerbe
- LB Paul Kruger
- CB Cary Williams
All of these guys had a large impact on the team last year, but could it be good that some of them are gone?
The Ravens' defense put up one of the worst defensive displays in franchise history in 2012; ironically, the defense still won the Lombardi Trophy for the Ravens in February after a huge goal-line stand by the Ravens in the fourth quarter.
The Ravens gave up 350.9 yards-per-game last season, ranking 17th in the league and being the most yards allowed per game since 2002. This stat also broke the nine straight season streak, in which the Ravens were ranked in the Top 10 in yards allowed per game.
With this awful display, numbers wise, the defense felt emptier than ever when the 6 starters departed this off-season. When all six were gone, many fans were lost. Most wondering what could possibly happen to this defense after it was butchered this off-season, and it didn't even look like the Ravens' defense last season.
Then, moves were made.
Ozzie Newsome, the greatest GM in the game, brought in talent from other places. The Ravens acquired this list of guys from free agency:
- DL Chris Canty (Previously on Giants)
- LB Elvis Dumervil (Previously on Broncos)
- DE Marcus Spears (Previously on Cowboys)
- LB Daryl Smith (Previously on Jaguars)
- S Michael Huff (Previously on Raiders)
Most of these guys are veterans of the game that can produce and stay well. LB Elvis Dumervil is probably the favorite among the off-season additions, as it should be. Dumervil was dangerous in Denver, as he could get to the quarterback with ease. Pairing up with Suggs in the pass rush will be very upsetting to all offensive lines in the NFL. People thought it was hard dealing with Dumervil and Suggs on separate teams, one at a time. They will definitely have a tough time containing both guys on the SAME team.
Grabbing Chris Canty, Marcus Spears, Elvis Dumervil, and Daryl Smith all help the pass rushing ability, along with the run-game containment. Last season, the Ravens allowed 1,905 rushing yards, and they hope to lower that number significantly. The Ravens were awful at defending good running backs, which is why they had trouble with teams like the Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, etc.
Turnovers. That was something last year's squad did very well, as they forced 23 turnovers in the regular season last year, a pretty high amount. The only thing is, Ed Reed and Cary Williams are both gone, as they both led the team with 4 interceptions a piece. As long as the Ravens can get guys to force turnovers like Reed and Williams, then they should be fine.
Now, the Ravens draft was also successful defensively. They drafted:
- S Matt Elam
- LB Arthur Brown
- DT Brandon Williams
- LB John Simon
- DE Kapron Lewis-Moore
Although these weren't the only defensive players taken in the draft, they are some that could make the most impact.
Focusing on the top two draft picks, these two could become an Ed Reed/Ray Lewis duo if they work hard and play hard together. Safety Matt Elam out of Florida looked very well in minicamp, as expected. Elam is looking to start at safety this year, and hopefully he does a great job if he becomes a starter, my only concern would be the interceptions, and could he become a ball-hawk like Ed Reed? Only time will tell, but I know I'm not the only Ravens fan that hopes he will turn out to be just like Reed.
As for Arthur Brown, he was limited in minicamp after coming off surgery for a sports hernia. The linebacker out of Kansas State looked well with whatever limited drills he did perform. Brown is looking to replace arguably the greatest linebacker of all-time, which is definitely a challenge. I believe that he can work hard and get the job done, especially if he can come back strong off of his injury.
The upcoming defense looks dangerous, but will it have success?
The new and improved Ravens defense should be much better at rushing the quarterback and stopping the run, which are two main concerns when talking about a powerhouse defense. As long as the defense can force quarterbacks to make quick, bad decisions and they can stop running backs from getting easy first downs, then they will definitely be more successful than last season.
CB Lardarius Webb is coming off of a torn ACL and should be ready to go by the start of the season. Webb was missed terribly after he went down in Week 6, as the Ravens' secondary never quite got over the loss of Webb. This season, with the loss of Cary Williams, Webb will need to be looking like his normal self, or else the secondary won't succeed.
LB Jameel McClain is doing very well after coming off of a spinal cord contusion which sidelined him for the remainder of the season last year. McClain has not yet been cleared, but he is very close to doing so, as he is working just fine and feeling perfect. Expect to see McClain back to the field very soon.
The point is, with all of the additions, recoveries, and men drafted, I would be more confident in this defense to be in a goal-line stand situation to win a title than last season's defense. Hopefully all of the new guys work out and the Ravens get a chance to hold up that Lombardi Trophy once again this season.
You know what they say, defense wins championships.
IF YOU'RE INTERESTED...
Here are highlights of some of the new defensive players:
Chris Canty: here (2011-12)
Elvis Dumervil: here (2011-12)
Michael Huff: here (2010-11)
Marcus Spears: here (2011- Only video I could find.. sorry!)
Daryl Smith: here (Career)
Matt Elam: here (College Career)
Arthur Brown: here (College Career)