Grading the Baltimore Ravens‘ defense after a quarter of the season:
Defensive Line: C+
Haloti Ngata has been his usual disruptive self, as his 20 tackles rank second in the NFL for a defensive lineman. He also has two sacks and has been an anchor on the Ravens’ defense. Unfortunately, he has been the only productive d-lineman as the Ravens’ front line has been below average.
Pernell McPhee has chipped in with 9 tackles and a half-sack, but the likes of Terrence Cody and Maake Kemoeatu have been nearly invisible. The lack of a pass-rush has really hurt the Ravens defend the pass, as they are 29th in the league in that category. The unit has done a nice job stacking up the run game, but the Ravens will need help from everyone, not just Ngata, if they plan to fix the pass rush.
Ray Lewis is again pacing the Ravens’ defense, as he leads the team in tackles, and sits 11th in the NFL in solo tackles. He also has a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery to compliment his tackles. The most pleasant surprise has been
Dannell Ellerbe, as the fourth year linebacker is second on the team in tackles, but his 2.5 sacks lead the team. Ellerbe also leads the team with two forced fumbles and his play has softened the loss of Terrell Suggs.
Albert McClellan, Jameel McClain and Courtney Upshaw have all been solid as well. Paul Kruger has been great in some spots, as he has 1.5 sacks and leads the linebackers in passes defended, but has only seven tackles. Look for the unit to continue to gel without Suggs, as his return is still a ways down the road.
Defensive Backs: B
By and large, the horrible pass defense ranking is not an indication of how the secondary has played. Good coverage can break down when opposing quarterbacks have all day to throw, and that is definitely true with this unit.
Cornerback Lardarius Webb has been near impenetrable as he has rarely been beaten thus far. He has five passes defended as the majority of the action at cornerback has gone the way of Cary Williams. Williams has done a nice job of bending without breaking, best exemplified by his pick-six against the Cleveland Browns last week. Quarterbacks are weary of Webb and have continued to pick on Williams.
At safety, Ed Reed has been all around the ball as usual. He leads the team with seven passes defended and two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown. Reed has become the flashy safety, as Bernard Pollard is emerging into the punishing one. Pollard has been playing with reckless abandon all season and has been laying the wood on opposing pass catchers all season.
His value was best exemplified in the Ravens’ only loss this season. Pollard had a monster first quarter of the game, but left with a rib injury. Mike Vick went on to torch the Ravens’ pass defense the rest of that game, as the Ravens sorely missed Pollard. Overall, if Williams can elevate his game a little more, this unit should be a forced to be reckoned with.