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Opinion: Ravens are proving defensive drafting was the right decision

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NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Green Bay Packers Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-USA TODAY Sports

Much has been made of the Baltimore Ravens decision to neglect their offense during the past two NFL drafts. It is true that the front office has selected eleven defensive players compared to six offensive players in the 2016 and 2017 drafts combined. Furthermore, this disparity includes six defenders compared to only one offensive player taken in the first three rounds.

Why did Ozzie Newsome continue bolstering a defense that already possessed a handful of Pro Bowl caliber players? Why did he saddle franchise quarterback Joe Flacco with yet another below average supporting cast? Because a dominant defense gives the Ravens their best chance to win their third Super Bowl.

Despite carrying an underperforming offense all season, the Ravens currently boast the second rated pass defense in the NFL. Their 16 interceptions rank first in the league, their 28 sacks eighth. Baltimore’s defense has produced three shutouts this season, and beatdown the opposition in all five of the team’s wins.

Recently drafted defenders have made these impressive performances possible. Against Green Bay in Week 10, rookie Marlon Humphrey out snapped veteran cornerback Brandon Carr 49 to 26, and broke up two passes including an interception. Rookie edge rushers Tim Williams and Tyus Bowser managed just two tackles, one quarterback hit and one pass deflection between them on 25 total snaps, but their presence allowed veteran Terrell Suggs to conserve his energy, which eventually resulted in two sacks and a forced fumble.

Second year outside linebacker Matthew Judon has developed into a legitimate impact player. His contributions against the Packers were six solo tackles, two tackles for a loss, two sacks and another forced fumble. Second year defensive lineman Willie Henry also chipped in two sacks of his own and five solo tackles. And second year man Maurice Canady acquitted himself well on 32 snaps, shoring up a weakness at slot corner.

These young talents, combined with a couple of undrafted gems, third year rotational contributors and home grown blue chippers Jimmy Smith, Brandon Williams, C.J. Mosley and Suggs have come together to form one of the best defenses in the NFL. Newsome knew his defense was only a few pieces away from becoming an elite unit. He also knew Flacco has never shown an ability to consistently carry the team in the regular season, regardless of the supporting cast surrounding him. Aiming for a top flight defense and asking Flacco to provide value by producing just an average offense was a wise strategy.

A look at the standings proves the value of premier defense. Phildelphia is the only team with nine wins, much of their success is attributable to the best defensive line in the league. Minnesota has earned eight wins despite losing their top quarterback and running back, their defense has played outstanding football. And Jacksonville is leading the AFC South based on the strength of their fierce defense, even without their best receiver, a running back who has missed time and a below average quarterback.

With the weather beginning to affect offenses, stout defense has the ability to ensure weekly consistency. As the saying goes, defense travels. And as evidenced by the 2015 Broncos and 2013 Seahawks, defense still wins championships. Supplementing a top ten defense was the right decision for 2017, and for the future of the Ravens.