Smart, mentally tough, humble…three words that describe last year’s Ravens’ defense.
With players like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed on the field there isn’t much they haven’t seen from an offense. The defense as a whole wasn’t nearly as dominate as we are accustomed to but when it counted they made stops and made people earn yardage the hard way.
There were grumblings about defensive coordinator Dean Pees lack of aggression, while they were warranted at times he did a good job balancing things out. The defense was just too banged up and lacking of athleticism to be very aggressive and exotic at times. He chose to be a little more vanilla. Many teams opt to keep their same approach regardless of the matchup but the Ravens proved through their game plans that their only objective was winning that particular week.
A Super Bowl celebration later and the organization is focused on returning to it’s more dominant form on that side of the ball. The goal is to remain smart, mentally tough and humble, but to add explosive, imposing and opportunistic to the trait list. The additions of Elvis Dummervil, Michael Huff, Chris Canty, and Marcus Spears all represent steps in that direction but their is more work to do, beginning with Thursday’s draft.
The safety position is undergoing a bit of a transition in the NFL and the Ravens are attempting to evolve with it. With all the multiple TE sets, read option, no huddle, and unorthodox personnel it’s become increasingly important to have safeties that can fit multiple roles. Michael Huff’s experience at corner and his versatility to come down in the formation and play the slot if needed will be huge for the defense. The other safety spot was vacated with the release of Bernard Pollard. He’s a strong in the box safety that excels going downhill but leaves much to be desired moving laterally. The Ravens will no doubt be on the look out for a prospect who can effect the game in both areas.
Inside linebacker is another position of need specifically from a coverage standpoint. This has been a growing need that may be as important as it’s ever been in the NFL. The short passing game has the replaced the power running game in many offenses around the league. Though athleticism is a desired trait, there is a delicate balance. Whatever prospect is drafted, he will have to show himself capable of shedding blocks and handling himself in between the tackles as well as covering backs or tight ends in space. Multiple picks may be made to fortify this position.
The acquisition of Elvis Dumervil gives great flexibility to the Ravens. They can keep him fresh for 3rd down because of Courtney Upshaw’s ability to set the edge. Haloti Ngata’s anticipated move to NT represents a gigantic upgrade over Terrence Cody and Ma’ake Kemoeatu. Chris Canty is a quality starting 5 tech and Marcus Spears offers solid depth. These moves should help the run defense and pass rush immensely.
If the Ravens can “hit a couple doubles” so to speak at inside linebacker and safety we may be talking about a new era of dominant defense in the Charm City.