Building a great defense starts with having great players at every level. It has taken time but the Ravens now field a defense that features potential all-pros at all levels and young explosive pass rushers at the outside linebacker position.
Eric Weddle who perhaps is the best out of all of the potential all-pros took the podium after Thursday's practice to speak on the overall performance of the defense. When asked about how his teammates respond to his criticism, this is what he had to say:
“This will be my 11th season; this is, by far, the closest team that I’ve been a part of. That’s not just including the defense, but as an offense. This team is just on another level, both mentally – being together, competing, pushing each other, playing off each other – and defensively. You go through our whole DB room, and our personalities mesh. We’re out there competing, pushing each other every day. No one has an ego; I don’t have an ego. Coach gets on me for when I make a mistake, then I get on a young guy or ‘T.J.’ [Tony Jefferson]. It’s just about being the best. We’re pushing each other and not wasting a day or a rep. I think our whole team has tried to live that way and practice that way, and I believe it’s going to show this year. It’s exciting for me to be a part of this team.”
Chemistry is what takes a good defense to legendary levels. The Ravens defenses of the past saw their nucleus stay together for multiple years. The Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos provide the more recent examples of defenses who built chemistry through multiple years of keeping their best players together.
This will be the second year of the current version of the Ravens defense. Pieces have been added, but with the core staying the same, Weddle's comments reflect the fact that last year can be built upon, from a schematic standpoint. Better communication brought on by tremendous chemistry will allow the Ravens defense to be more multiple and therefore, more exotic.
There is no scenario in which this defense is not elite. Circumstances demand it. All the pieces have been brought together, by the players admissions. It is now time to perform.