HELP WANTED: Super Bowl Champ Seeking a New Green Dotsman

Jacksonville Jaguars v Baltimore Ravens

Give the Ravens credit for not resting on their laurels.

Bringing back as many from the Super Bowl XLVII winning roster as humanly possible would have been the easy thing to do and clearly from the perspective of the team’s fan base, it would have been the path of least resistance.

It would also have been the path to a .500 season – or worse.

Instead Ozzie Newsome and his top-notch front office colleagues were determined to reclaim the team’s long-standing reputation as a defensive juggernaut by gutting the defense and rebuilding it.

When the victory parade ended following a second world championship the team members dispersed knowing that they’d never be the same again.

The roster purge might even continue after the dust of the 2013 NFL Draft settles and the Ravens put their tried and true 80/20 formula to work. Can they replace any expensive veterans and get 80% of the production for 20% of the cost?

Clearly the additions and subtractions on defense far outweigh those on offense and with good reason. The Joe Flacco led unit is moving in the right direction. The defense, despite a late season rally, perhaps emotionally charged knowing that the 2012 season represented Ray Lewis’ farewell tour, aged rapidly.

They looked slow and tired during the second half of the Super Bowl. Perhaps you’ve even heard on NFL Network’s Sound FX coverage of the Super Bowl, San Francisco 49ers coaches and players mocking the Ravens conditioning and age.

Changes had to be made.

And the changes were many.

Seven defensive starters – GONE!

Since that confetti fell from the Super Dome ceiling when Josh Bynes tackled Ted Ginn, Jr. to end SBXLVII the Ravens have ushered in plenty of new faces, all part of an effort to get younger and faster on defense.

When you look back to some of the most effective Ravens’ defenses, they almost always had solid depth in their defensive line rotations and inside linebackers that could run sideline to sideline.

Consider these defenders that could comprise the Ravens defensive front seven rotation in 2013:

Terrell Suggs; Haloti Ngata; Elvis Dumervil; Courtney Upshaw; Art Jones; Pernell McPhee; Chris Canty; Marcus Spears; Brandon Williams; DeAngelo Tyson; Terrence Cody; Arthur Brown; John Simon; Kapron Lewis-Moore; Jameel McClain; Rolando McClain; Albert McClellan; Josh Bynes; Michael McAdoo.

That is a ton of talent to control the line of scrimmage all complemented by a formidable albeit youthful projected starting back four of Lardarius Webb, Matt Elam, Michael Huff and Jimmy Smith.

The Ravens wanted to get younger and faster on defense…

Mission accomplished!

Now the challenge, the heavy lifting sits upon the shoulders of defensive coordinator Dean Pees and his staff. Ozzie & Co. delivered the groceries and now it’s time for the chef to do his thing.

But it won’t be easy – at least not initially.

With so many new faces it will take some time to gel and a leader will have to emerge.

Ray Lewis is gone. Ed Reed is gone. Someone will have to step up.

But who?

Suggs may be an effective colonel but he’s not general material. Ngata? Quality guy without question and clearly respected but as a defensive captain he’s not the answer.

Who is the answer? Who could be that guy wearing the green dot that takes the calls from Coach Pees and implements them on the field?

Ideally you want someone who is a three down player and given the rotations in the front seven, one would think that the player most likely to be on the field at all times is rookie Arthur Brown. But adjusting to the speed of the NFL is challenging enough. Add in the responsibilities associated with the green dot and it will force Brown to think – perhaps think too much and when players do that, they play slower and consequently less effectively.

The player most familiar with the defense is Jameel McClain but if history is any indication the undrafted free agent from Syracuse isn’t a three-down player. Making matters worse for McClain are lingering health concerns centered upon a spinal contusion that ended his 2012 season prematurely.

Rolando McClain, should the team stick with the troubled inside linebacker, is too volatile and untrustworthy to depend on at this time in his career.

Bynes or McClellan? Do they even have a chance to start? Will both make the team?

Corners aren’t really practical as “Green Dotsmen”.

And that brings us to the probable starters at safety, veteran newcomer Michael Huff and rookie Matt Elam. Perhaps Elam, a rare captain as a Junior for the Florida Gators could be that guy someday, but as a rookie? That’s asking a bit too much.

Huff might be the guy but can he embrace Pees’ system quickly enough?

There really is no clear-cut choice to wear the green dot but heading into the 2013 season we all knew there would be a transition period from the Ray Lewis Era. This is part of the process – part of the learning curve.

But as we’ve seen so often in recent years, the team holding the Lombardi Trophy under the rain of confetti at the end of the season doesn’t have to have the best team at the beginning of the season or during the regular season. It’s not how you start but how you finish.

The personnel department has assembled the talent. It’s now time for the coaches to configure the talent to get the greatest returns when it counts the most.

We won’t mind if “the band” plays a few sour notes along the way.

Just as long as they pass the audition.

This entry was posted in Blog View, Featured, Lombardi's Way by Tony Lombardi. Bookmark the permalink.

About Tony Lombardi

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

12 Raves on “HELP WANTED: Super Bowl Champ Seeking a New Green Dotsman

  1. RichieG on said:

    Hey TL,
    Good analysis; interesting issue.
    And, in case you have nothing planned in the near future re LT…why the “laissez-faire” attitude from the FO. THE player key to winning the Vince was…bigMcK and he appears to be going (yeah, he presents attitude problems), a la the 2nd most valuable player in the SB: aQb. Is KO really good enough at LT or will he be JahReid there; doesn’t it sound like the OL draft choices will be SWITCHED from LT; is a stop-guy (if they sign one) the answer??? Do you expect the Oz to pull another rabbit out of his hat?
    AND, why are teams still so secretive AFTER the draft, ie: why Elam over Cyprien; why not ReidFragel (got a lot of TV time as a Kiper-best-remaing) over RWagner?
    RichieG

    • Tony LombardiTony Lombardi on said:

      With all due respect RG, I think McKinnie gets FAR too much credit for the improved play of the offensive line. The combination of McKinnie-Osemele-Birk-Yanda-Oher was the best the Ravens could field and this combo together with the stellar play of Osemele and the improved and more diverse play calling helped the O-Line upgrade their collective performance much better. McKinnie was a slight upgrade over Oher but he alone cannot be credited. IMO he really deserves no more than a little credit and if the Ravens thought otherwise, they’d sign him today for about $2M to play the 2013 season.

  2. RichieG on said:

    TL,
    Hope you are right and all they really need is a stop-gap vet … or someone-better-than-Oher.
    Just empirically speaking, the guys who went up against McKinnie in the playoffs did nothing and the OL as a whole played lights out – a far cry from their performance during the regular season w/o McK. I know McK presents “issues”, but Oher is not the answer and it does not seem like the answer is on the premises.
    RichieG

  3. Dev Panchwagh on said:

    Great article and a point I alluded to in my upcoming piece about Arthur Brown. My thought is Jameel McClain will be the guy at the begining of the season. As you mentioned, he knows the defense and is one of the more cerebral players on defense. But will he remain on the field when the team goes to their sub packages? He could conceivably play in those situations, but he may be too much of a coverage liability and brings little to the table as a crash or blitz guy. And this is all under the assumption that he’s healthy.

    The problem is teams are lining up in spread formations on traditional running downs, so nickel and dime packages are also part of the base defense structure. The player that has the responsibility to call the plays has to be on the field on EVERY down. So although McClain may start out as the guy, perhaps Brown takes over the mantle as the season progresses and he gets more comfortable.

  4. RAVENSGATORMAN on said:

    the draft picked alot of college captains/leaders and with our defense totally reborn,my guess would be McClain will be the guy due to his knowlege of the defense, yet will he be healthy enough to remain on the field—the talents and the leadership are there for anyone to take control of being that man

  5. True on said:

    Yeah, I didn’t think about the time it would take to gel. But our defense is SOLID with every position. I hope we work hard at becoming a team and focused on winning.

  6. Bruce Almty on said:

    TL, thanks for your work on the article. I totally agree with your analysis, and whomever gets the green dot in Sept may need to surrender it at the bye week break. That seems to be a great transition time.
    Art Brown was the guy I wanted at ILB … after Ogletree of course … and we all hope he is DROY. But if that does not happen, perhaps the leader of the defense is in his future…along with the green dot. A Ray/Ed do over isn’t possible but an Art/Matt dynamic duo is doable.
    Again, thanks for your work.

  7. patrick on said:

    Everyone seems to be forgetting that Josh Bynes was the signal caller last year and played every down in the Denver game when McClain and Lewis were both out. Granted, the results were not good, but it was his first full game and the opposing QB was none other than Peyton Manning. He also handled this responsibility in college. I think they should cut J McClain due to his high salary and let Bynes handle signal calling while letting Brown develop and learn his trade. Brown still needs some seasoning. He has a lot of plays on youtube where he looks like the next Ray Lewis, but he also had some full games where he looked lost even at the Big 12 collegiate level.

  8. ravcolt on said:

    How did the NFL offense and defense ever manage for 70 years without the green dot? Or is it 80? Get rid of the dumb thing.

  9. JerryB on said:

    Another good “post”, Tony! Hate to keep harping on the mantra, “In Ozzie we trust”, but the fact is the man and his staff know what they’re doing. And, if the current roster doesn’t produce a solid LT, there is every reason to believe that they’ll find one before the season starts. Newsome is quoted as saying that the goal each year is to “get better”. By all accounts, they’ve certainly achieved that and it’s just May 1st! As for the new “leader of the pack”, Ray Lewis evolved into that role and someone else is bound to do the same. If Joe Flacco, for example, picks up where he left off last year, he, like John Unitas of old, could lead this team by example, if not histrionics!

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