The Ravens pass rush from a year ago was anemic to say the least. Last year’s team was tied for 27th in the league with only 27 sacks – besting only the Jaguars (26), Bucs (26) and Broncos (23). There were lulls in aggression, predictability, space eaters plodding around trying to get penetration, and two recent 2nd round picks chipping in with next to nothing.
That said, the 2011 Baltimore Ravens squad already has the look of a team that can bounce back and answer its pass rush critics and here’s why:
1) Chuck Pagano: From the minute he was hired you’ve heard nothing but great things from coaches and players about the coach he was. During his introductory press conference he couldn’t contain the fire when asked what his defensive philosophy was. He used the phrase, “wreak havoc”; promised aggression – a sharp contrast from his predecessor. The philosophy alone will boost the club’s defensive pressure.
2) Cornerback play: This year’s first round pick Jimmy Smith is a special talent. He brings size, athleticism, speed, physicality at the line and instincts that don’t come around often. Domonique Foxworth will be returning from a torn ACL that ended his season before it even started. Those 2 additions along with holdovers Lardarius Webb and Cary Williams, 5th round pick Chykie Brown and the hope of retaining Josh Wilson or Chris Carr should make for a very formidable group
3) The young defensive linemen: The Ravens will be counting on Terrence Cody, Arthur Jones, and Paul Kruger to take the next step. Cody can do that by being a force in the middle and occupying blockers to allow others favorable matchups. Arthur Jones reportedly has added MMA training to his regimen and has shed weight and re-tooled his body. That can do nothing but help him become more agile and explosive and in turn earn him snaps. Kruger started to see the field more last season, yet he needs to build on that by continuing to get stronger and adding counter moves. He has an excellent motor and good physical tools but he needs to diversify his game to consistently disengage from blocks.
4) Sergio Kindle: This one is the wildcard. Kindle was cleared to play back in March but until he goes through contact nobody knows what to expect. If he’s able to return to the field he brings a lot of ability. His speed and athleticism is sorely needed. He also has very good range, fluid hips and is sound in coverage. It’s hard to see a scenario where he is able to show all of that in year one but he certainly can help on passing downs and on special teams. Essentially the Ravens can ease his transition by letting his frustrating hiatus work for them. It’s time to turn him loose.
Yes things are looking up for Pagano’s pass rush.
But then again, they’d be hard pressed to get any worse!