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Where the Ravens defense can improve in 2018

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NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

For a franchise that has been shaped by defensive pedigree, Baltimore has ranked outside of the top five in the majority of statistical categories over the last two seasons. While the Ravens offense justifiably receives the most scrutiny and examination, the defense will need to elevate their play as well to snap the playoff drought in 2018.

Total Defense (YPG)

Ravens 2017 ranking: 12th (down from seventh in 2016)

While the Ravens still rank in the top half of the league in total defense, the divisional rival Steelers improved from 12th in 2016 to fifth last year. Baltimore allowed three more yards per game from 2016 to 2017 and 49.2 more yards per game than the Minnesota Vikings who lead the league last season. An unbalanced time of possession due to a stalling Baltimore offense has forced the defense to play more snaps and become fatigued late in games, inflating the amount of yards opponents are able to gain.

Passing (YPG)

Ravens 2017 ranking: 10th (down from ninth in 2016)

The Ravens gave up 213.8 passing yards per game in 2017, 19 less yards than the previous season. However, Baltimore did not keep pace with the rest of league. The Jacksonville Jaguars allowed just 169.9 yards to lead the NFL, improving upon Denver’s 185.8 mark in 2016. Pittsburgh cut their passing yards per game by 33.4, elevating their rank from 16th to fifth.

This offseason the Ravens released struggling veteran defensive back Lardarius Webb who was drafted 88th overall in 2009 by Baltimore. The Ravens will look for Tony Jefferson and Brandon Carr to elevate their production as they both enter their second season with the franchise. The team also drafted the nephew of former Ravens left tackle Bryant McKinnie, Alabama cornerback Anthony Averett in the fourth round. Averett possesses the athleticism and speed to be a strong late selection.

Rushing (YPG)

Ravens 2017 ranking: 15th (down from fifth in 2016)

In the most dramatic drop from the previous year, Baltimore’s defensive line struggled against the run, allowing 111.2 yards per game on the ground. In 2016, Baltimore allowed just 89.4 yard per game, less than six yards more than the league-leading Dallas Cowboys. Last season the Ravens allowed 13 more rushing first downs than in the previous year. Baltimore Beatdown editor, Vasilis Lericos, breaks down how the defensive line can make strides in 2018.

With a new defensive coordinator leading the way, the Ravens will look to bolster their defensive performance with a healthier line and better coverage in late game situations. If the offense can support their efforts by controlling the ball more, then Baltimore will be better positioned for their first playoff berth since the 2014 season.

*Statistics from BaltimoreRavens.com and NFL.com