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Glancing over the improvement of the Ravens’ defense on paper

The free agency moves were real deal

NFL: Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After the shellacking the Ravens’ defense suffered against the Tennessee Titans ended their dominant run in 2019, the front office made big moves to address their weaknesses as they ramp up for another hopeful championship run in 2020.

First, the team held onto CB Jimmy Smith. The cornerback position is incredibly important in the modern NFL and while the team already sports two All-Pro corners in Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters, it never hurts to have a player of Smith’s caliber as a third.

Speaking of the secondary, CB Tavon Young will be returning for the 2020 season. He missed the 2019 season with a neck injury but is expected to be back and making plays just as he did in 2018.

The Ravens also re-signed Justin Ellis and Jihad Ward. Both were solid players along the defensive line and their familiarity with the Ravens system may help one if not both of them when rotating for snaps.

More importantly, the Ravens landed two big names in free agency. The trade for Calais Campbell shows just how serious the Ravens are for a championship run. A dominant All-Decade defensive lineman who has totaled 88.0 career sacks and forced 14 fumbles is a big game changer. Compare that to former Raven Chris Wormley, who only produced 1.5 sacks last season or Michael Pierce, who only managed a half-sack in 2019. Either way, the difference in production will be easily seen on game days.

Baltimore followed up this move by signing DE Derek Wolfe, who is another interior defender capable of pressuring the quarterback. In 2019, Wolfe played in 12 games and notched seven sacks and 12 QB hits. These jumps in production are vast improvements over last year’s counterparts.

As many noted, the importance of veteran talent in 2020 may be vital for success. The lack of reps due to practice cancellations and health risks will mean those who have participated and already operated in each teams’ playbook will be far higher up in experience and ability to contribute this season. This is why the re-signing of Anthony Levine Sr. was another solid move by the Ravens. “Co Cap” is a leader of this team and is also a playmaker. He can help the team in coverage as a hybrid linebacker/defensive back and with both Josh Bynes and Patrick Onwuasor signing elsewhere, may receive a large increase in reps this coming season.

Last season, the Ravens had not yet realized a significant player was sitting on the bench for many games to start the season. Now, Chuck Clark’s already locked up a contract extension and a hell of a lot of playing time through 2023. He’s defined as an incredibly smart player who football I.Q. is among the elites. One of his defining plays in 2020 was a self-inflicted penalty during a goal line stand against the Buffalo Bills.

While each season brings about highs and lows from each player, on paper, this Ravens’ defense appears stronger than last season, which means a lot considering they ranked third in points allowed last year. With multiple stud defensive lineman capable of getting after the quarterback, coupled with four quality cornerbacks (with two being 2019 All-Pro’s), this defense could once again rank among the best in the NFL in 2020.