The Baltimore Ravens defense is far from perfect. They are depending on a rookie linebacker, they’re weak at outside linebacker, and they don’t have all that much depth at cornerback. With that said, this is a talented defense. Their starting secondary is second to none, they didn’t really lose anyone in free agency, and they brought in some big names on the defensive line. The key to succeeding in the NFL is staying healthy. If this Ravens defense stays healthy they will be a top-five unit.
Chuck Clark and Earl Thomas are the Ravens’ starting safeties. Thomas and Clark are on opposite sides of their career. Thomas is a veteran on a downward trajectory and Clark is shooting up with a lot of good football ahead of him. While Thomas is on the back end of his career, he was coming off of an injury last year. Thomas is completely healthy now and ready for his second year in Baltimore. The turning point for the 2019 Ravens defense was when Chuck Clark was given the green dot. The Ravens had previously been dealing with numerous communication issues, and when Clark took the dot, those issues melted away. Thomas and Clark are able to line up on different parts of the field. Clark routinely played in the dime back role. Thomas and Clark combine to create a formidable safety tandem.
Coming into the 2019 season the cornerback situation in Baltimore was looking iffy. Tavon Young had just gone down with a season-ending injury and the Ravens didn’t have a lot of options at slot cornerback. Marlon Humphrey started following receivers inside and the results were apparent from the get-go. In week four against the Browns, Humphrey held Odell Beckham Jr. to just two receptions. Another turning point for the defense last year was the trade for Marcus Peters from the Los Angeles Rams. Peters cemented the outside with a rotation of other cornerbacks, including Humphrey. Peters came up with some huge interceptions. With Young coming back the Ravens have some depth at cornerback. Humphrey and Peters are one of, if not the, best cornerback tandem in the NFL. Because they are so dominant, it allows the Ravens to blitz with an easy heart.
The Ravens brought in a pair of inside linebackers off the street in 2019. They solidified a weak linebacking core. The Ravens concentrated on addressing inside linebacker in the offseason. The Ravens drafted Patrick Queen with their first-round pick in the 2019 draft. Queen is expected to be an every-down player for the Ravens. The inside linebackers struggled in 2019. Queen plays bigger than his size, and he is a sideline to sideline linebacker, which the Ravens didn’t have last year. Queen will have to adjust to the NFL without any preseason, but he will be a cornerstone of the Ravens defense for years to come.
What has made the Ravens defense great in the past is their ability to stop the run with their front five and let their back six play coverage. The key to doing this is having the outside linebackers set the edge. Last year the Ravens weren’t able to do this. This forced the inside linebackers and members of the secondary to play the run. This area wasn’t really addressed in the offseason, despite the Ravens having one outside linebacker under contract for 2021. The Ravens are depending on Jaylon Ferguson to take the next step and become a premier edge defender. If Ferguson can consistently set the edge, the rest of the d-line should follow suit.
The Ravens brought in Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe in the offseason. Check out this previous article where I expounded on the impact Calais Campbell makes. Campbell and Wolfe will work to solidify a defensive line that was torched in the playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans.
The Ravens defense is also enjoying Lamar Jackson and a dominant Ravens offense. The Ravens led the league by a couple of minutes in time of possession. This let the defense rest up and it forced opposing offenses to throw the ball. One of the reasons that the Ravens allowed the most yards-per-carry in franchise history was … the Ravens allowed it to happen. The Ravens let the other teams run against them late in games because it was pointless. An example of this was the Texans game in week 11. On their last three drives, the Texans had 75 of their 122 rushing yards. Those drives occurred when the Texans would have needed a miracle to come back and win the game. The Ravens let the Texans run because, while it padded the statistics, the game was all but over if they ran. The Ravens offense should be able to dominate time of possession in 2020 which will allow the defense to stay rested and stay dominant.