Rashaan Melvin is the Ravens' knight in shining armor. He's the guy that will single-handedly turn the Ravens secondary into a force to be reckoned with this season instead of the sieve that it has been so far. You might be wondering if I'm smoking crack, but hear me out on this.
Melvin was forced to step up last season into a starting role with Jimmy Smith out with his foot injury. Lardarius Webb was still struggling to be consistent on every play, much less every week and was being abused by wide receivers. Then Melvin gets his shot after the previous secondary got canned midway through the season. He immediately stepped in and held his own, enough to where he wasn't the guy being picked on by offenses. He was a willing tackler and a guy who has the size and speed to match up well against some of the top receivers in the league. That is the crucial parts to why Melvin will turn this defense around.
Melvin finally gets a chance to sit in this secondary for a full offseason. He gets to learn behind Jimmy Smith and spend an entire offseason learning the Ravens' defensive schemes. Just that alone will mean that he should have enough of it down to not see the confusion that we all saw Sunday against the Oakland Raiders. With his 6-foot-2, 194-pound frame, he is surprising close in size to Jimmy Smith, only lacking 12-pounds. They are so close to being identical specimens that they even match in their 40-yard dash times at 4.42 seconds.
That exact size matches up better to the second wide receivers that are typically similar in stature to their number one teammates. That physicality that Melvin can bring at that size will allow him to do better in boxing out receivers, jamming them at the line and even winning in jump ball situations. No shame to Lardarius Webb, but his size (5-foot-10) just doesn't allow him to win physical battles with larger receivers and his injury history and age is starting to sap what speed he did have.
By Melvin being 100% healthy again, the Ravens can finally start the process of pushing Lardarius Webb into a slot cover role where his speed and size will better match up against the smaller but quick players you typically see in that spot. That should help solidify the secondary and it will even help the Ravens' pass rush get home as well.
By giving the pass rushers more time to get to the quarterback, it puts pressure on the offense to hold back Dumervil and company and to make a decision it likely doesn't want to make. Those poor decisions could mean holding onto the ball too long, earning a sack, or it could mean a ball thrown in a window too tight, allowing the defender to get an easy interception. On another level, it opens up more for the Ravens to do defensively as teams will either need to keep a tight end and a running back to help block for their quarterback or it will mean spreading the defense out, which should be easier for the pass rushers to get a quick pressure. Against lesser quarterbacks and those that struggle with pressure, it will mean major mismatches for the Ravens and ones they can capitalize on.
Now I'm not saying that having Melvin will mean that the defense suddenly becomes the best defense ever or even in the league. It does however open up a lot of possibilities for the Ravens to expand and see mismatches that they can exploit. Those exploitations equal points on the board for the Ravens and some wins.