Concerns Mount Around the Ravens Defense

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Terrell Suggs struggles to get past Joe Staley during practice, August 9, 2014. (Photo Credit: Baltimore Ravens)

A buzz was in the air as the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers warmed up to prepare for their cross-continent practice partners.

This would be no ordinary day of training camp.

The same drills, the same 7-on-7 routines, the same 1-on-1’s that by this time during the summer have become as mundane and boring as ESPN’s and NFL Network’s excessively redundant coverage of Johnny Manziel, just weren’t the same – in a good way.

These athletes with a heightened sense of focus ushered in by the flow of competitive juices running through their veins, were about to dial it up a few notches.

As they walked onto the field, some with friendly foes of different colors, smiles shined through helmets like the sky on the sun-soaked fields. Terrell Suggs skipped out of the locker room next to Haloti Ngata singing an Alicia Keys song.

“Everything’s gonna be alright.”

For Suggs on Saturday afternoon it wasn’t all right as he was often stopped cold in his tracks by 49ers left tackle Joe Staley. His jagged a cappella version of No One was the last chirping we would hear from the boisterous former Defensive Player of the Year who once had a 3-sack game against the Niners on Thanksgiving 2011.

The practice results brought to the surface lingering concerns – can the Ravens generate a pass rush without the benefit of the blitz? Will Suggs and bookend OLB Elvis Dumervil be more like the players from the first half of the 2013 season or the second?

Many think back to the days of “Organized Chaos” when Rex Ryan unleashed his defense on opposing quarterbacks. And while chaos was the focus the operative word in the description is “organized”. Players require familiarity with each other in order for the “chaos” to work and you need a field general who can command the defense and who is intimately familiar with its concepts. He needs to be the yin to the yang of the defensive coordinator.

That’s not the case in Baltimore – at least not yet.

Without the benefit of an effective pass rush it leaves a rather ordinary secondary vulnerable.

Jimmy Smith has arguably been the best defender on the field this summer and it would be of no surprise if the Ravens opt to use Smith to mark an opponent’s best receiver, particularly the long pass catchers who can get vertical and make the tough contested catches. (See the AJ Greens and Julio Joneses on the 2014 schedule.)

But outside of Smith, questions abound.

Lardarius Webb has been missing and while the club seems to be downplaying the injury and the consequential rest as precautionary, Webb’s history of injuries raises concern.

Chykie Brown has been consistently awful. Asa Jackson can make plays but is he a pure corner? Does his size whet the appetite of opposing QB’s? He may be the team’s answer as the nickel corner (he gets my vote) but can he compete effectively on an island?

Veteran Dominique Franks is competing but he’s been inconsistent. Undrafted Free Agent corners Deji Olatoye, Sammy Seamster and Tramain Jacobs have had their moments but in a passing league will Dean Pees be even remotely comfortable with rookies who weren’t even worthy of being drafted?

And then there’s the safety position, one that hardly gives fans that warm, fuzzy, SAFE feeling.

Darian Stewart has had a pretty decent camp so far and defensive backs coach Steve Spagnuolo is certainly familiar with the former Ram’s ability. But one ability that has avoided Stewart is availability. He has a history of nagging injuries and has yet to dress for a full 16-game season during his 4-year career.

Rookie third-round pick Terrence Brooks seems lost and rather stealth during practices – so much so that one almost needs to be reminded of his number (33). Jeromy Miles has been decent but his legacy in the NFL includes predominately special teams accomplishments. Sounds a bit like James Ihedigbo.

Former UDFA’s Omar Brown, Brynden Trawick and Anthony Levine seem like nothing more than special teamers at best and camp fodder at worst.

And that brings us to 2013’s first round pick Matt Elam.

Elam has been lauded by his teammates and by the coaching staff. But judging from his production in camp you can’t help to be left wondering if the accolades are part of a collective effort to prop up the former Florida Gator and get his mojo moving in the right direction.

Elam is supposed to be that guy up in the box, making plays around the line of scrimmage and then occasionally in the backfield. Think Bob Sanders (hopefully).

To be fair, those plays aren’t readily on display during camp because of the lack of contact. Yet that said, the lack of playmaking is concerning. Elam is nearby but a step or two late. It was evident yesterday as he trailed behind TE Vernon Davis during a couple of crossing routes by the Pro Bowl former Maryland Terrapin who picked up chunks of yardage on those plays, much like he did in Super Bowl XLVII.

There’s a reason the Ravens are taking a flyer on troubled safety Will Hill.

What is your biggest concern regarding the Ravens at this point in the preseason?
Lack of depth along offensive line (7%)
Injuries and lack of depth in the secondary (76%)
The loss of 2 defensive ends for the season (17%)
This poll has completed. Thank you for voting.
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Tony Lombardi
Tony is 24x7 Networks, LLC's founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan. A diehard Fab Four fan, Tony is a frustrated musician who thinks beating on the steering wheel is akin...more

15 Raves on “Concerns Mount Around the Ravens Defense

  1. WWMR on said:

    Does Will Hill ever see the practice field? If so what position are they playing him FS or SS and on what team(1st 2nd or 3rd). I have a feeling he starts for us by week 7.

  2. D-Rock on said:

    Elam is young and just moved to SS. It’s week 2….. of the preseason!!!!! I’m not concerned with Elam. Webb and # 3 corner scare the shttttt outta me

  3. seatraveller on said:

    We drafted the wrong safety in Elam. Ozzie has sure been asleep at the switch on the secondary. We’ve got cap room, why haven’t we done anything?

  4. James on said:

    Since the 49ers came to town I have heard complaints about the pass rush but last week I kept hearing about our qbs being sacked.

    Yes, the secondary is a concern, but I feel like it is every year. Until last season Harbs had Reed but the rest of the secondary has been pretty questionable. There have been stars like McAlister, Webb, and Smith but everyone else has been average or below average.

  5. Brian Bower on said:

    Strong safety is Elam’s position of comfort. It isn’t week two of the preseason they have gone throwugh OTA’s, minicamp and two weeks of training camp. The concern is warranted.

  6. jws on said:

    You got to love these fans and their comments. As far as the real facts and truth is……
    It all starts at the top with Harbaugh’s selection as head of the defense in Pees
    that was let go by the Patriots for not so great defensive results. Then, how good
    really are these defensive players? Has Suggs and Dumervil at their age turned into
    average at best pass rushers? Is Matt Elam really that good and how bad are DB
    reserves and all other safeties? Are Pees schemes not that good? No doubt the
    hiring of Gary Kubiak and his new offense and Ozzie’s great off season offensive
    additions NEEDED TO carry this team to any playoff hopes this SEASON..

    • Smitty on said:

      Pees was never fired from The Patriots. His contract expired in 2009 with them and he decided he didn’t want to return with them. The last time he was the patriots defensive coordinator their defense was ranked 11 overall and in 2008 it was ranked 10th overall. Pee was not a terrible defensive coordinator with The Patriots.

      • JWS on said:

        What’s the difference? That a play on words,fired or
        contract not renewed! Rankings are stats that don’t matter.
        The Ravens were ranked 12th for awhile last year
        but lost important games.
        Did they win Suiper Bowls? He quit with no job?
        Did he retire ,not want to caoch any more?
        Why had noone offered him ahead defensive job since
        until the Ravens?Tell me how good his defenses
        have done here? GIVE ME A BREAK!

  7. chris on said:

    Flacco will lead us again, just like he did when he carried us on his back to the SB ….. Defense is suspect much like last year…As long as flacco has time to throw, we wont need an elite D to win the division… AFCN is a very bad division this year ( and last)

  8. concretejimmy52 on said:

    But the LB corps is solid. Typical Ravens defense. They just spanked the 49ers, but there’s reason for concern? Not good to hear about Urban and now Moore. But they were never on the field any way. The only thing that concerned me was the loss of Graham. The thought of Chykie being the #3 CB. Jackson and Franks made sure that won’t become a reality. Ravens always have issues on defense concerning a prospect and someone else steps up. Ravens won a SB without Ray Lewis for most of the season. Without Suggs for most of the season. Without Webb. And an ailing Haloti Ngata. And no offensive coordinator, which was better than Cam Cameron. I think the Ravens will be fine.

  9. concretejimmy52 on said:

    Joe Flacco is elite. Maybe no other QB in NFL history throws the Mile High Miracle. Not to mention some other passes I’ve seen him throw and make it look easy. It helps to have guys like Jacoby Jones (deceptive speed). Ravens receiving corps is deep as it’s ever been. When Joe came into the league he had a possession receiver (Mason), TE (Heap) and Ray Rice. And Cam Cameron as OC and still managed to win playoff games. Steve Smith was the Panthers offense and now he has Joe throwing him the ball with guys like Torrey and Jacoby and Dennis to open the field. Don’t forget about UDFA’s Marlon Brown and now Butler. They catch the ball unlike Doss and whoever was on the roster. And Haloti says he feels better than he has in years. And lighter. A lighter and faster Ray Rice. And Suggs was hurt in 2012 and probably not fully healthy in 2013. CJ Mosley could be DRoY. And Kelechi Osemele was talking Pro Bowl before back surgery ended his season. This Ravens team will be in the playoffs flying under the radar and dangerous.

  10. concretejimmy52 on said:

    The Colts are over-rated just like they were with Manning. Luck gets an easy schedule every year just like Brady.

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