ESPN’s own and former Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker Ray Lewis called out the Ravens for having a lack of leadership following this weekend’s party bus fiasco in Washington D.C. involving wide receiver Jacoby Jones and left tackle Bryant McKinnie to name a few. Is that really an event that transpired because the Ravens don’t have a vocal leader? I think not, especially because I think strong safety James Ihedigbo would have something to say about that.
The 29-year-old has become a full-time starter in just his second year in Baltimore and has significantly improved some aspect of his game each week. It is clear that head coach John Harbaugh wasn’t lying when he said James had one of the best camps on the team as his play has echoed that statement on the field.
The former Massachusetts Minutemen safety has started the first three games of the NFL season and has tallied 16 total tackles and defended three passes. He was second behind inside linebacker Daryl Smith in terms of tackle totals with nine in the Ravens’ 30-9 victory over the Houston Texans.
James has always been known for his ability to play in the box and his ability to play special teams throughout his seven-year NFL career that has seen stints with the New York Jets, New England Patriots and now the Ravens. His pass coverage and overall athleticism have left more to be desired, but it seems as if James has done his due diligence to solidify and improve those areas of his game.
One aspect of his game that people didn’t expect to see that has shown quite vividly in the Ravens locker room has been his leadership.
When Ihedigbo first arrived in Baltimore, I viewed him as a guy who could lead by example, contribute to this team on special teams and provide a solid nickel or dime option and a spell to strong safety Bernard Pollard; I made this claim before his release and signing with the Tennessee Titans. Looking at who James has become in this Ravens locker room, a unit who has since lost greats like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are now distant memories as Ihedigbo has taken control as one of the main vocal presences on that defense.
Members of the secondary alike all echoed the statement that James has become a chatterbox, and that’s just what this defense needs. Communication is so vital to this defense, and sometimes it transcends what players are able to offer physically. That’s why Lewis and Reed had such incredible impacts when they were in the lineup for Baltimore all those years. While their physical traits and skills diminished with age, their mental toughness and football intelligence was greater than most that have ever played the game.
If you have watched any of the Ravens’ games this season, you would notice that communication has clearly improved since their Week 1 debacle against the Denver Broncos. It’s one of the reasons they held the Cleveland Browns in Week 2 without a touchdown as well as the Texans in Week 3.
Being a vocal leader doesn’t always have to mean you’re a guy who fires up a team with epic speeches. A vocal leader can simply articulate the right message through his play and also relegating duties on the defense to make sure the alignments and assignments are correct.
The Ravens are 2-1 because James Ihedigbo is developing quickly into that kind of football player. It’s just a matter of time before this Minuteman — pun intended — in the back end of the secondary snags his first career interception of an opposing quarterback.