DEFENSIVE LINE: C+
Comments: This unit started on a high note, but allowing 140 or more rushing yards in three of the last four games is not a good sign as the defensive line has been controlled way too much at the line of scrimmage in recent weeks. Nose tackle Haloti Ngata played well early, but the Pro Bowl lineman has looked pedestrian ever since as he’s battled hip and elbow injuries, which is becoming a yearly pattern. Free-agent newcomers Chris Canty and Marcus Spears haven’t made the impact the Ravens had hoped and Terrence Cody missed four games with a knee injury. Defensive tackle Arthur Jones has been the best player in the group while rookie Brandon Williams has come on lately to push for more playing time. This unit needs to be much better in order for the Ravens defense to be a top 10 unit.
OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS: A-
Comments: Suggs has been the team’s best player with eight sacks and has been the Ravens’ most consistent performer playing against the run. Elvis Dumervil has been more of a situational player with Courtney Upshaw playing in run-first situations, but the former Denver Bronco has collected 5 1/2 sacks and has created plenty of pressure coming off the opposite edge of Suggs. In his second year, Upshaw has struggled some in setting the edge consistently, but he is still labeled one of the unsung members of the defense. The Ravens rank second in the league with 25 sacks as Suggs and Dumervil have been as good as anticipated in forming one of the best pass-rushing duos in the NFL.
INSIDE LINEBACKERS: B
Comments: Daryl Smith has struggled to shed blocks in recent weeks, but he was still the Ravens’ best free-agent value of the offseason for a little over $1 million as he’s provided solid leadership at inside linebacker in the post-Ray Lewis era. Josh Bynes isn’t very strong in pass coverage and struggles with consistency, but he’s played solidly against the run in the absence of Jameel McClain, who made his long-awaited return in Week 7 after a 10-month absence. It will be interesting to see how the defensive staff handles the workloads of Bynes and McClain moving forward. Rookie Arthur Brown flashes some excellent athleticism playing in sub packages, but he needs to add some bulk in the offseason to be a three-down linebacker.
Comments: It’s clear that teams are testing Lardarius Webb after his ACL injury from a year ago, and he hasn’t found the same level of consistency he showed prior to last year’s knee injury when he looked to be blossoming into a Pro Bowl defensive back. Jimmy Smith has improved from his first two seasons but still struggles to use proper technique and loses the football in coverage. Nickel corner Corey Graham lost his starting job after the season opener and hasn’t played at the high level he did last year when he emerged as one of the biggest surprises of the 2012 season. This group plays well as times, but missed tackles and coverage gaffes have led to big plays at critical junctures. To their credit, coverage has tightened up inside the red zone to prevent touchdowns.
Comments: The free-agent signing of Michael Huff has been one of the worst by Ozzie Newsome in recent years, which has essentially forced the Ravens to play two strong safeties in the secondary. James Ihedigbo is good in run support and has been better than expected in pass coverage, though that is clearly the biggest weakness in his game. First-round pick Matt Elam flashes nice ability in playing the run, but his size has been an issue in coverage and he still makes too many mental mistakes, which is somewhat understandable for a rookie. Ed Reed’s play in Houston this season confirms the Ravens made the right choice in letting go of the future Hall of Famer, but the Ravens lack a game-changer at the safety position, which explains the lack of turnovers they’ve been able to force in the secondary.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C
Comments: Justin Tucker missed two field goals in Week 2 but has been perfect in his attempts otherwise as he is emerging to be one of the best kickers in the NFL. With Jacoby Jones suffering a knee injury in Week 1, Doss has been a pleasant surprise in handling punt returns, leading the NFL in return average and scoring on an 82-yard return against Houston in Week 3. Beyond that, there hasn’t been too much to like as Sam Koch’s punting has been inconsistent, two punts have been blocked, and penalties have plagued Jerry Rosburg’s units, which experienced plenty of turnover from last season when the special teams were an overall strength of the Ravens.
Comments: Harbaugh has been heavily criticized, but some of this roster’s problems should fall on how it was constructed by Newsome this offseason. Offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell has lacked creativity in trying to start games faster by throwing to set up the run and attempting to pump life into the running game. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees has been slow to adjust when opponents such as Buffalo and Pittsburgh have offered different looks in the running game, which has led to problems over the last month. Harbaugh’s gambles such as going for it on fourth-and-goal against Green Bay and trying the onside kick in Pittsburgh have rarely worked out, which have made him an easy target much like a baseball manager after bringing in a reliever who gives up the big home run. This coaching staff has plenty of work to do to turn the season around and has provided few solutions so far.