Not one game has been played yet, but by looking at all of the additions and the subtractions in the Baltimore Ravens went through in free agency and the NFL Draft, people can see that the depth is there and the dominance on defense will return to form.
Ray Lewis and Ed Reed headline the defensive players that left this off-season. While their contributions will never be replaced, the Ravens did what they had to do at the right time. Lewis wasn’t going to play inside linebacker forever, and Reed wasn’t going to play safety forever. But drafting studs like Arthur Brown and Matt Elam could arguably solidify Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome as a GM of the year candidate.
The defense ranked 17th in the NFL last year in yards allowed giving up 350.9 yards per game as well as 122.8 yards per game on the ground. In addition to the run defense last season, the Ravens’ defense allowed 4.0 yards per-carry, which stopped their 16-year streak of holding offenses under 4.0 yards per carry since the team was established in 1996. So with all of that, the Ravens decided to sign defensive ends in Marcus Spears and Chris Canty which will make Haloti Ngata the starting nose tackle next season. The Ravens made it a point, as Newsome alluded to earlier in the off-season, that they wanted to get better in the middle of the defense. They seem to have done just that.
In terms of the pass rush, the Ravens seem to have made the most underrated move of the off-season so far in signing Elvis Dumervil. I don’t think people are giving this move enough attention. Dumervil provides the Ravens a starting outside linebacker with the natural ability to get to the quarterback, which is something the team hasn’t had since Peter Boulware was around starting full time in 2003.
The secondary provides youth and much more speed with safties Michael Huff and Elam starting. Cornerback Lardarius Webb is coming back from a torn ACL that occurred in week five of the 2012 season. Cornerback Jimmy Smith is looking to prove himself as as a talent the Ravens drafted him with in the first round of the 2011 draft. And with breaking up a potential touchdown pass in the Super Bowl last season, Smith’s confidence should only get bigger.
The one outlier in all of this is inside linebacker Rolando McClain. Can he put his troubles in the past? Can he provide the work ethic the Ravens want from him? If he can’t do those things then he will be cut from the team and the Ravens will have to rely on other young talent to fill the position. The talent is there; he just has to put it together.
Even though the Ravens just won the Super Bowl, they didn’t forget their identity. They know who they are which is a physical team on both sides of the ball. They gave Joe Flacco the money he deserved, but that does not take away what the Ravens see in themselves and the tradition on defense they created. Baltimore’s defense is here to stay.