Yesterday I posted a good, hard look at the Ravens offensive needs. Most agreed we need some serious help at the wide receiver, center and depth roles along the offensive line. Now it’s time for the defense. I may sound harsh in this, but I think myself and the fans are exhausted with the acceptance of ‘good enough’. This franchise in twenty years has two Super Bowls and consistently played postseason games. Missing the postseason three times in the last four years is something we’re not accustomed to, and should not get comfortable with. These are the Baltimore Ravens.
A - Position is optimal
B - Doing well, may need depth
C - Average, will need attention, maybe in later rounds or a good FA pickup
D - Draft or find somebody through free agency in early rounds
F - Serious need the Ravens must address before 2017 begins
Eric Weddle is an A, undoubtedly; the man graded as the number one safety according to PFF. The Ravens need to find a player to dominate alongside the man. Until then, the Ravens are satisfied with Lardarius Webb. The Ravens past two drafts selections for safeties, Matt Elam, Terrence Brooks) haven’t worked out, and Baltimore needs to right the ship.
This is the part where most expect me to tear the team to shreds, and I’m heading there. Jimmy Smith, albeit never healthy, is a top performer in the league when he’s around. The problem though is he’s not lasting full seasons. When Smith goes down, the team collapses. Baltimore looks back on track with Tavon Young, but that’s only one piece of the puzzle. Recent free agent acquisitions have not done well in Baltimore, (Kyle Arrington, Jerraud Powers). Baltimore needs to draft or sign a #1 cornerback to fix this problem. Tavon Young covering the slot with Jimmy and a new starter will change the landscape of this defense.
This team has Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, how is this a D+ squad? Father time is undefeated and if you witnessed the Ravens-Steelers Christmas Day heartbreak you’d agree. Zero sacks on Ben Roethlisberger in a winner-take-all contest for the division proved Baltimore needs to shore up the pass rush. Sizzle playing with a torn biceps injury was the most reliable player on the attack squad. Dumervil only performed when Suggs couldn’t finish the play. While Matt Judon is growing into a very talented pass rush player, that’s only one player. Za’Darius regressed hard and it hurt the Ravens. The outside linebacker position needs addressed in the draft.
C.J. Mosley is a Pro Bowler and Zachary Orr is a good starter. These two will be a good tandem for years to come. The jury is out for Kamalei Correa, but as it stands the Ravens can train just about anybody to play inside linebacker. This is not a position to worry about.
Timmy Jernigan started this season on fire, three sacks in three games. The fire did not last long; in the final thirteen games the Raven tallied only two more sacks. Brent Urban played well on special teams, but his playmaking on the defensive side gave only ten tackles and two sacks. Carl Davis sustained an injury, as did Bronson Kaufusi. This team needs depth players at the position to help take the pressure off the edge rushers.
Folks are starting to overvalue Brandon Williams ability, and it’s worrying me. This is the best run-stopping lineman in the NFL. His talent helps the entire squad not worry about the run inside. He commands double-teams and breaks through them. Ozzie nailed this draft pick. Michael Pierce, the undrafted free agent from this season, is on his way to becoming in the area of Williams’ skill level. People are forgetting though, Williams defense is helping Pierce receive less attention. If Williams leaves this defense will have problems. Unfortunately, he knows this and his price tag may become to large for the front office to pay.