Continuing trends is never an easy thing to do in the NFL. The Ravens defense will do all it can to keep its success going in 2015.
Last season, Despite placing 19 players including six DBs (five CBs and one safety) on Injured Reserve, the Ravens allowed the NFL’s sixth-fewest points (18.9), a mere 30 TDs (the league’s fourth fewest) and the eighth fewest yards per game (336.9). Not bad for a Dean Pees-led unit which, at one point, saw 12 different cornerbacks on their 53-man roster in 2014.
More impressively, the defense racked up 49 sacks, producing the NFL’s second-most QB drops while their stout red zone play (permitted a 42.6% TD efficiency mark) also ranked as the NFL’s second-best figure.
As training camp quickly approaches, team officials will get their first padded preview of a healthy group that will return in full force excluding Haloti Ngata who was traded this offseason and Pernell McPhee who cashed in during March’s free agent frenzy.
While easier said than done, the Ravens look capable of replacinge Ngata and McPhee, who were both key defensive cogs last year. The team appears confident that second-year player Timmy Jernigan and rookie ZaDarius Smith can replicate their production.
“He has just improved and gotten better,” John Harbaugh stated during OTA’s about Jernigan. “He’s more confident in what he’s doing defensively. He wants to play to his strengths. He has a lot of quickness and explosiveness, and he’s focusing on that.”
“I can’t say it’s a dramatic difference, because he’s very confident, but he was really confident last year,” he added.
“He’s a confident guy, so he has really high expectations for himself.”
Is it safe to say that the Ravens could be one of the leagues premier defenses in 2015?
It certainly isn’t out of the realm of possibility considering they earned their sixth playoff berth in their past seven
seasons and were a healthy secondary short of reaching another AFC Championship game in 2014.
Football games are won and lost in the gritty trenches upfront. The Ravens boast a formidable young group that is raw but relentless and carries some veteran leadership. While he is another year older, Chris Canty’s insight and knowledge of the game is second to none. The group consisting of Jernigan, Brandon Williams, Brent Urban, Kapron Lewis-Moore, DeAngelo Tyson, Carl Davis and Steven Means could be downright nasty.
The linebacking corps feature an impressive group of pass rushers in Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, who combined to produce the most sacks (29) among any NFL duo in 2014. Dumervil’s franchise-record 17 ranked as the league’s third most,while Suggs’ tally tied for the league’s ninth-best mark. Daryl Smith and C.J. Mosley should once again prosper. The duo were two of only three NFL defenders to register at least 125 tackles, an INT, a sack, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble in 2014.
The biggest question mark heading into the 2015 season rests on the shoulders of the secondary. Off to a good start during OTA’s, a healthy Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb are the cornerstones of a unit that was decimated by injuries last season. If both can remain healthy, something with which they both have struggled in their careers, the Ravens could have something special.
The organization added veteran corner Kyle Arrington, who should see plenty of action and provide depth at the position. Safeties Will Hill and first-year Raven Kendrick Lewis are a solid one-two punch which should keep opposing quarterbacks on their toes.
Of course everything hinges on the ability to stay healthy throughout the course of training camp, something that hasn’t happened in recent years.
While I am not one to make such early or bold predictions, the potential of Dean Pees’ group is attractive as we get ready for their first padded practices.
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