The Ravens sure have produced some great defensive backs over the years, but one stands out among them, a man among boys, if you will. He was an easy selection for this part of my series, his name? Ed 'Ball Hawk' Reed.
If there's one statistic that came to define Ed Reed's career, it would be interceptions. Ed hauled in 64 of them, which is good for sixth of all time. One doesn't simply achieve this great feat through sheer ability, defensive backs must read up on the other quarterback's weaknesses, and study the film immensely. Playing defensive back is a lot like fishing, the player must 'bait', and lure the quarterback into throwing it their way. Without Reed's attention to detail and ability to pick apart a quarterback, he definitely wouldn't be where he is today. It's definitely saying something when one of the greatest quarterbacks ever, Tom Brady, would write "Find 20 on every play" on his wristband everytime he played Reed. Reed was everything you could ever want in a defender, and he terrorized quarterbacks and offensive coordinators for many years.
"He was pretty much a Defensive Weapon. If you didn't know where he was at all times you were more than likely screwed. Often they even knew where he was and he's somehow run clear across the field to pick the ball off. Incredible player."
- Redditor /u/PhillAholic
It wasn't just Ed's ability to get the ball, it was what he could do with the ball once he got it. He has the NFL record for most career interception return yards (1,590), NFL record longest interception return (108 yards), and first person in NFL history to return an interception, punt, blocked punt, and fumble for a touchdown. It's also saying something when he's straight up fumbled the ball eleven times, that means he's had the ball defensively a lot, and a lot of laterals too. Here's two of my favorite 'after the pick' plays by Ed.
To put his insane stats in perspective read this little factoid from Redditor /u/Eastern_Cyborg:
In 2010, Reed only played 10 games. He had 8 INTs. The 2010 Saints had 9 total."
To add to his resume, Reed was also a 9x Pro Bowler, 8x All-Pro, Defensive Player of the Year, 2x Defensive Back of the Year, Super Bowl Champion, and a sure lock for Canton.
Ed Reed was the pinnacle of defensive eliteness. A guy who dominated the league for years, and patrolled the field like no one else. No quarterback was safe against him, and he was a key part of some of the best defenses the Ravens ever had. Ed Reed set the mold for future Ravens defensive backs, and we can only hope that one day Baltimore will see another DB as great as Reed, but that may never happen, because Reed was truly one of the greats.