Ravens Opt to Gut Their Below Average Defense

Kruger Ellerbe

The losses are mounting. Six defensive starters (Lewis, Kruger, Ellerbe, Pollard, Williams, Kemoeatu) are gone and a seventh could be leaving by the time you read this piece – Ed Reed.

And even if Reed leaves, the current model, what will the Ravens have lost then?

Put aside your emotional ties to the All-World safety. Forget all those times you chanted his name at M&T. Disregard that he’ll be in the Ring of Honor, a Hall of Famer and atop Baltimore’s sports Mount Rushmore.

How good was he really in 2012? Is he still a difference maker?

Were any of the aforementioned losses really difference makers?

They may miss the push off the edge with Kruger but couldn’t a much better edge setter in Courtney Upshaw combined with a healthier Pernell McPhee offset that loss?

Pollard, Ihedigbo, even Christian Thompson or Omar Brown — besides their paychecks is there really that much falloff, if any?

It could be successfully argued that the biggest loss is Ellerbe but given the money it took for Miami to lure him, is he worth that gamble? Here’s a guy who is injury prone, hasn’t consistently shown a commitment to conditioning and is said to love the nightlife.

And now he’s in South Beach!

Seven possible starters down, but is that such a bad thing?

Here’s a defense that declined rapidly in 2012 yielding 351 yards per game during the regular season (up 21% from 2011) and 428 yards per game in the playoffs (up 33% from 2011). And after giving up 468 yards in the Super Bowl, an NFL record for a champion, the Ravens’ brain trust has to be sitting around, scratching their heads and asking, “How did we win the Super Bowl with that defense?”

Clearly changes had to be made – changes guided in many ways by the team’s salary cap structure.

The Ravens are looking to invest, not just spend.

They want to be pragmatic and thrifty instead of acting swiftly and become victims of the early seller’s market.

During the opening of free agency last year, the Ravens quickly lost Jarret Johnson, Ben Grubbs, Cory Redding, Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura. All chased the money but besides the money, what did the get? What did they do?

The Ravens showed patience and nabbed Corey Graham and Jacoby Jones, modest investments that inspired yawns at the time. Many who covered and observed the Houston Texans laughed at the acquisition of Jones.

Who’s laughing now?

In 2012 the Ravens weathered tragedies, several major injuries, a late-season firing of their offensive coordinator and a near mutiny. They persevered, guided by a front office and a coaching staff who collectively selected a group of men with character who somehow, despite the odds got it done.

But to think it could happen again given the way that their defense was trending towards older and slower along with the loss of their leader, would be naivety in its finest form.

Instead the Ravens have opted to gut a below average defense and build one that is younger and faster. Spending to keep last year’s defense intact amounts to throwing good money at bad.

Last year the Ravens were considered offseason losers. This year is no different.

Ask the Philadelphia Eagles what winning the offseason got them two years ago.

Let’s see what winning this year’s offseason gets the Chiefs or the Dolphins.

The safe money is on the man called Oz!

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

15 Raves on “Ravens Opt to Gut Their Below Average Defense

  1. Chad on said:


    One thing people keep forgetting about our team is that we build our team through the draft period. Did we buy all of the key players on our D over the years, NO! We will draft replacements and build another dominant defense period. Not sure what all the fuss is once you take the emotion out of the defense rebuild. My two cents.

  2. Voice of Reason on said:

    A lot of people don’t even realize that Kruger and Ellerbe weren’t even considered starters for their first 3 seasons, and much of 2012. They were forced into their roles due to injuries. Maybe people also forget the arm tackles, and the mediocre RB’s looking like hall of famers against them.

  3. John on said:

    Good points as usual Tony, but here’s my counter point:

    Q: Why do so many players succeed in our defense and then go on to mediocrity elsewhere?
    A: Because they are no longer being mentored by Ray Lewis & Ed Reed

    Fact: There isn’t anyone in football that watches film as well as Ed Reed (and if you’re inclined to argue Ray – he’s retired).

    So now they’ve lost more than half the starters (and I’m okay with that). It would be a colossal mistake to let him go this year and have nobody to mentor the new guys. Somebody has to train them on the “Ravens” way. Otherwise, there will be a new “Ravens” way, and it’s likely to be mediocrity.

    So, yes, I’m suggesting that Ed may need to be compensated for his off the field value for a couple of years. I’m also suggesting that John Hardball check his own ego at the door and embrace it. Pollard is replaceable but should have stayed.

  4. Anonymous on said:

    Couldn’t have said it better myself, Tony! In fact, I think I….did! Getting rid of a lot of “dead wood” so to speak, in favor of younger and faster personnel will translate into getting…..BETTER! Ozzie has acknowledged making the mistake following the first Super Bowl win of keeping an aging team in tact. He’s not going to ever let that happen again! To all the naysayers and pessimists, the best advice is to wait and see how this plays out when next season starts. Whether or not you agree with the, “In Ozzie We Trust” mantra, the FACTS are that he’s had a remarkable track record and he DOES know more about personnel decisions than the fans…….

  5. Robert Fuse on said:

    Very good article. I’ve been preaching this to people. It’s really not their fault. A lot of people don’t know this team inside and out like me. They see big names leave and panic.

  6. Dell P on said:

    Great piece! I’ve been trying to tell people to remain calm, and believe in the Oz! I had them remember how upset people were when we lost D.Mason, Heap and Kelly Gregg! Despite winning the Superbowl, defense was the worst I’ve seen in recent years. We got lucky how we picked it up in the playoffs, but we cannot count on that to happen again this year. We need to cut the oldheads, get younger and faster, and we’ll probably be much better.

    The young offense is pretty good, maybe except for the o-line, and hope we get a solid pickup to secure the LT. Oher is a RT, so leave him there. We may miss Anquan, but I believe in Pitta to pick up his slack, along with Torrey, Jacoby, Tandon, Deonte, Laquan, and hopefully Streeter. Oh, and forget David Reed. Enough deoth there?? lol We mainly need some ILB and some safeties. I feel that our front will be good (aside from NT), and we’re solid at CB. Just hope we get some good pass rushing from our guys, and I’m hopeful that McAdoo can help bring the Heat to that group.

    R A V E N S N A T I O N

  7. Chris grove on said:

    I agree for the most part. I am fan of the changes and although at first they made me worried examples like this show where it makes sense and may work. Except for your Ed reed comment, Brady and manning are scared of Ed reed, him just being on the field his experience, his spirit are great assets to this team, leave the Ed reed out and this article makes sense

  8. Tgun42 on said:

    Fantastic article. This is a very level headed approach to what is going on. We really lost no game changers. This is what you do for Reed, let him walk away from us as a champion. Spend the last two unproductive years of his carreer getting paid somewhere else. Our gift will be to never having to see him play horribly in the black an purlple and remember him as a Hall of Famer when he gets in Canton with a Ravens hat. I think we will be in good shape.

  9. Mike in Grasonville on said:

    So far I’m not so sure that adding two 30 year olds is making the defense younger. While I’m pretty certain the Ravens will draft defensive replacements there is no guarantee that they will be able to be starters this coming season. There is still a lot of time left before next season starts, but we need to see something that’s aimed more for the future than just stop gap measures.

    • Tony LombardiTony Lombardi on said:


      Pieces to the puzzle. Everyone needs a little patience. We are 5 days into the free agency period and the Ravens have never been a team to jump in quickly. Offseason “winners” don’t often translate into in season playoff teams. One of the weakest parts of the defense at times was defending the run. Improving the DL rotation is a good step towards improvement and securing a sixth consecutive playoff berth.

  10. Alan Zlotorzynski on said:

    Great work Tony…..Ravens fans kill me….This is a defense that ranked out of the top 10 for the first time in nine years and was 20th against the rush….Regardless of the run they made in the playoffs and as they got healthier they still allowed an average of almost 142 rushing yards per game in the postseason….Spears, along with Canty, Ngata, Jones, McPhee, Upshaw, Suggs and whomever else Ozzie adds will be get the job done.. Reading various responses around the web from Ravens fans kill me, saying this is a “ruined team” and “The Ravens no longer know what they are doing” is ridiculous….The Ravens have always operated off the blueprint that defense wins championships but a franchise QB, or at least a real good one would be nice have if we can get one….WELL!!!….Ozzie will rebuild this defense and despite the losses, this defense will fare no worse in 2013. Besides, so what if they do, the Patriots and Packers were historically bad two seasons ago and all GB did was go 15-1 and the Pats lost in the Super Bowl, to the lowest ranked team (Giants ranked 26th) to ever win the Big Game I might add. While it is the goal of the fans to want to repeat, in the NFL, the reality is to get back to the playoffs and take your shot, the Ravens will be able to that when this is done. Win your fantasy football league first Ravens fans before you tell the best GM in all of sports how to conduct his business…….In the words of Third Eye Blind…”Wish you would step back from that ledge my friend”…Ravens back to the playoffs in 2013 at 10-6….Nice piece of writing Tony and I would love to have you back on the my Ravens show sometime soon….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Hot off the street

Special Teams Aren’t as Special Anymore

With all due respect to Justin Tucker (who is essentially Matt Stover with a bigger club) and Sam Koch who has the 6th best net punting average (41.5) in the league, special teams are overrated. So...read more


Ravens DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Michael Campanaro (thigh); TE Owen Daniels (knee); CB Jimmy Smith (foot); LB Terrell Suggs (neck) LIMITED PARTICIPATION: RB Justin Forsett (ankle); G Marshal Yanda...read more

TALE OF THE TAPE: An Extra Dose of “Zo”

After a 2013 season in which the Baltimore Ravens rush attack averaged a historically poor 3.1 yards per attempt, the run game in the Charm City has been nothing but positive. Ranking fifth in the ...read more

FANTASY LINKS: Starts and Sits Week 9

Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 9 With teams like the Packers, Bears, and Packers on a bye this week, decisions to start and sit players become even more difficult. The guys over at numberFire ...read more

FILMSTUDY: Defensive Highs And Lows in Cincinnati

Defensive Notes vs. Bengals 10/26/14 Matt Elam’s problems mushroomed Sunday with 5 missed tackles versus the Bengals. How much did that cost the Ravens? Let’s take a look: • (Q1, 13:27): ...read more

View More