The Ravens defense has been uncharacteristically vulnerable this season. No longer are teams afraid to lineup and run the ball at their front 7, and teams are aware of the weak links to attack in passing game.
Without reigning defensive player of the year Terrell Suggs to start the season, teams haven’t had to shift their protection to compensate. To add insult to injury the team must finish the season without standout cornerback Lardarius Webb and face of the franchise, linebacker Ray Lewis.
Even without Suggs nobody could have seen this coming.
But maybe we should have.
Since 1998 the Ravens have drafted 2 inside linebacker in the first 4 rounds of the draft, Ed Hartwell (2001 4th round) and Tavares Gooden (2008 3rd round). In that same span they’ve drafted 4 defensive lineman, Anthony Weaver (2002 2nd round), Dwan Edwards (2004 2nd round), Haloti Ngata (2006 1st round) and Terrance Cody (2010 2nd round). These are the current problem areas and the root of the decline of the defense.
Now this is no dig at Ozzie Newsome, he’s been masterful at finding late round players, undrafted free agents and inexpensive free agents and plugging them into roles. The list of role players and productive starters this formula has produced is lengthy. This process will not stop, nor should it, but it’s time for an aggressive infusion of talent.
The linebackers struggle in space and the pass rusher’s lack the athleticism and short area burst to be true game changers. The defensive linemen charged with taking on the legacy of stout run defense look better suited for sub package roles.
Ravens fans may not want to hear this but this defensive decline may have been just what was needed. If this decline didn’t occur maybe the front office would be able to look at all the high defensive rankings and decide they could maybe squeeze another year out of this group.
The harsh reality is this team desperately needs to get more athletic on the defensive side of the ball. Early round reinforcements on the defensive line and at linebacker are needed. With an anticipation of 11 selections in the 2013 draft and the offense in the best shape it’s ever been, this is a prime opportunity to load up on defense.