The Baltimore Ravens did a lot during the 2016 offseason in addressing the defense. From a coaching staff perspective, the Ravens hired Leslie Frazier as a secondary coach and he has head coaching experience from his days with the Minnesota Vikings. In free agency, the Ravens signed veteran free safety Eric Weddle to a four-year contract as he will solidify the back end of a defense that has been inconsistent at best since Ed Reed left in 2012.
In the 2016 NFL Draft, the Ravens made it a point to add pass rushers in Kamalei Correa, Bronson Kaufusi, Willie Henry and Matt Judon. The Ravens even added a little more depth at cornerback with Tavon Young and Maurice Canady. On paper, the Ravens look more balanced in terms of being able to stop the run and disrupt the passing game.
However, there is one glaring weakness that the Ravens still have and that is being able to cover the middle field against opposing tight ends. Ravens inside linebacker C.J. Mosley struggled in his second season in the league staying with tight ends in coverage and other times covering runningbacks out of the backfield which was also a problem for a lot of linebackers on the Ravens roster.
Ravens fourth-year inside linebacker Arthur Brown hasn't been on the field long enough to make a clear distinction of where he stands on the team. Ravens inside linebacker Zachary Orr is the best cover linebacker the team has but it remains to be seen what he can bring to the table with veteran Daryl Smith leaving the team earlier in the offseason. He will get his time to shine this season for sure.
Ravens linebackers will get plenty of practice going up against quality tight ends in training camp with Dennis Pitta, Maxx Williams, Crockett Gillmore and Ben Watson all in the fold. Training camp should tell at least a little bit of what Ravens linebackers can do in coverage going forward.
To add to that the Ravens will have outside linebackers cover tight ends from time to time and there are question marks to how well Terrell Suggs will hold up in those situations as he is recovering from his torn Achilles injury and Elvis Dumervil is not a guy you want to drop back in coverage. You want Dumervil to run up the field and get to the quarterback as soon as possible. It would also be a tall order to ask rookies like Correa and Kaufusi to drop back and handle veteran tight ends on a consistent basis.
There are two ways the Ravens can cover its weakness in the middle of the field. One, putting Weddle and Lardarius Webb on the back end of the defense allows the Ravens to be more flexible in pass coverage. Either player could be a strong safety or a free safety in a pinch. Allowing Weddle or Webb to help cover over the top for linebackers in certain packages should take the pressure of the linebackers against tight ends.
The second way the Ravens can cover its weakness in the middle of the field would be to provide a better pass rush as we all know. The Ravens were one of the worst teams in the NFL in getting off the field on third down last season. There was a point during the middle of the 2015 season where the Ravens were ranked 31st in getting off the field on third down. A lot of that was a combination of the lack of a pass rush and the inability for the Ravens to cover for a respectable period of time.
Once again, training camp in 2016 should give everyone an idea of how well the Ravens pass defense has progressed against intermediate routes.