Who can forget the 2001 Super Bowl XXXV champion Ravens and their dominating defensive performance? In that game, MLB Ray Lewis became the first and only defensive player on the winning team to receive a Super Bowl MVP award.
Now almost a decade has passed and that Super Bowl MVP is the only member of the 2001 championship team to still play for the Ravens today. Although Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, and Haloti Ngata are great examples of solid additions to the defense since 2001, the recent years show a shift in identity to match a new era of pass-heavy offenses.
For the past 6 years, Baltimore chose 5 offensive players in the first-round of the draft. To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if Baltimore chose another offensive player in this year’s draft as well. The bothersome part is that Ray Lewis is nearing the end of his career and Ed Reed might already be done. That would leave Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, Trevor Pryce, and Brendon Ayanbadejo as the only 4 defensive pro-bowlers. Would you believe me two years ago if I told you that the Ravens would have more pro-bowlers on offense than on defense? With Ray Rice, Le’Ron McClain, Willis McGahee, Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin, Matt Birk, and Todd Heap now wearing purple, it’s no longer a fantasy to see the Ravens having an elite offense. Did I miss anyone?
While all of this may sound good, it comes with a price to pay. The Ravens made some heavy sacrifices by re-prioritizing. With the loss of DT Justin Bannan to the Denver Broncos and the possibility of losing DE Dwan Edwards as well, our defensive line is starting to lack depth. Major setbacks in cornerbacks are another issue the Ravens are facing. While injuries limit CB Fabian Washington and CB Lardarius Webb, CB Domonique Foxworth’s performance does not meet expectations.
The Ravens have always been known to run the ball and stop opponents on defense. Last season, when the number of pass attempts exceeded the number of run plays, the results were ugly. I hope the Ravens can keep their identity as a feared defense and power running team, while still utilizing its new receivers. Having new weapons for Joe Flacco doesn’t mean the pass attempts should increase, but it does mean the pass completions should.