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Ravens News 1/18: Defensive review, top free agents and more

NFL: AFC Wild Card-Los Angeles Chargers at Baltimore Ravens Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Reviewing Baltimore Ravens’ 2018 defense under Don Martindale, looking ahead to offseason’s impact - Aaron Kasinitz


Yards allowed per game: 292.9 (ranked 1st in NFL)

Points allowed per game: 17.9 (2nd)

Takeaways: 17 (T-22nd)

Sacks: 43 (T-11th)

Third-down percentage: 34.1 (3rd)

Football Outsiders’ DVOA: -14.1 (3rd)

Best performance: 21-0 win over Titans in Week 6

While the Ravens turned in a handful of dominant performances, including several against better offenses than Tennessee’s, this showing stuck out. Baltimore piled up a franchise-record 11 sacks in the game and held the Titans to seven first downs and 106 total yards. The one glaring thing the Ravens didn’t accomplish in Nashville proved emblematic of the defense’s season: They didn’t force a turnover.

Worst performance: 36-21 loss to Panthers in Week 8

This one was a bit easier to choose. The Ravens’ defense also crumpled in a Week 2 loss to the Bengals, but in that game, they recovered from the shock of losing Mosley to a first-quarter knee injury and made things competitive in the second half. The loss to the Panthers represented the only time this season Baltimore’s defense looked overmatched and outcoached, and the absence of cornerback Marlon Humphrey wasn’t a valid excuse for the letdown.

For much of the season, Martindale was able to scheme around issues covering the middle of the field by using aggressive pressure packages. The takeaway totals should rise next season if the Ravens can rush the passer effectively without sending blitzes.

Top 25 NFL free agents of 2019: Defenders dominate rankings - Gregg Rosenthal

10. C.J, Mosley

Inside linebackers don’t get paid in free agency, although Mosley could be an exception. A four-time Pro Bowler, Mosley is known for his smarts and his leadership.

20. Za’Darius Smith

PFF credited Smith with 10 sacks, 17 QB hits and 33 hurries in the regular season, which is monster production for someone with 690 snaps. He plays with laudable fury.

Seahawks impending free agent linebacker K.J. Wright was ranked 19th on this list. He is a versatile defender who could possibly replace Mosley if C.J.’s price tag is deemed too expensive.

Ravens: Injured Players in 2018 That Could Provide Impact Next Season - Joe Schiller

DeShon Elliott

The sixth-round pick out of Texas strung together an impressive offseason but suffered a fractured forearm in the second half of the Ravens’ third preseason game against the Miami Dolphins. Elliott missed the entire year rehabbing from the injury, which was disappointing considering he was expected to see time on the field, likely as a special teams contributor.

Elliott may be thrusted into a more prominent role next season depending on how the safety position shapes out. Both Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson could be released as cap casualties to create savings. It’s unlikely both depart but Elliott could have a chance to compete for significant playing time.

Of course, this revolves around his health heading into the offseason but coming up on five months since the injury, I would assume Elliott would be ready to go.

Elliott is a ballhawking hybrid safety with some centerfield ability. On a team loaded with box safeties, he could be in-line for significant playing time if he displays the requisite instincts to man the deep middle.