Much has been made over the past week about the Ravens’ defensive transition. For the first time in roughly 17 years the Ravens played a game Sunday without either Ray Lewis, Ed Reed or Terrell Suggs on the field. For that extended period of time the Ravens have always been known for their stellar defense. Sure there were some down years, and some finishes outside of the top ten. But ask anyone who has any sort of general knowledge about the NFL, what are the Ravens best known for? Nine times out of ten the answer you will probably hear is defense.
That history looked like it was going to continue after Week 1. The loss to Denver was brutal, and made the injury to Suggs even more difficult to swallow, but there were some very positive takeaways to that game. The defense looked dominant and limited Peyton Manning and the Denver offense to zero touchdowns. Week 2 brought hope with the Oakland Raiders – a vulnerable defense decimated by injuries and an offense that ranked second to last in 2014, and sat in that same position after one game of this season. A chance to rebound indeed. But we all witnessed the debacle, and the Ravens have a big mountain to climb if they want to make the playoffs for the seventh time in eight seasons.
If I had told you the Ravens would allow 19 points to the Denver Broncos, and score 33 points versus the Oakland Raiders, it’s safe to say most of you would tell me there was a good chance that Ravens would start 2-0. But here they sit at 0-2 after two very strange losses. There is a lot to critique over the last couple of weeks, but the biggest overall takeaway is the Ravens completely lack any sort of identity.
Any team that has success, whether it’s short lived or over the span of several seasons has an identity. The Green Bay Packers are a high powered offense. Aaron Rodgers lights up the scoreboard and their defense does enough. The Seattle Seahawks have been known as a dominant defense over the last couple years, and that’s been enough to stamp their ticket to a couple of Super Bowls. Say what you want about Tom Brady and his deflated balls, but you know even at age 39 he can pick apart defenses.
So who are the Ravens? The dominant defense they displayed in Week 1 wasn’t enough to carry them to a victory. Despite putting up 33 points in week two, the defense couldn’t make a stop when it mattered most. The way it looks is they’re a team in transition and they probably don’t even know who they are. Versus the Raiders they lacked leadership. Suggs may not show up on the stat sheet the way he used to but he was clearly missed on and off the field of Sunday. The defense looked lost against a below average offense, and Derek Carr’s jersey looked as clean in his postgame press conference as it did when the equipment manager took it out of the drier before the game.
Since John Harbaugh arrived in Baltimore he has always had the privilege of a coach on the field. Whether it’s been Lewis, Reed or Suggs, the Ravens’ identity is one that’s always been in place. Whether Suggs ever plays another snap in a Ravens uniform remains to be seen, but regardless it’s now on Harbaugh and the coaching staff to figure out exactly who this Ravens team will be in both 2015 and years to come. Fans are witnessing the growing pains that come along with that transition, and it could make for a long season for the 2015 Ravens.