I couldn’t have said it better than my colleague John Sears: “Big name = big overreaction.”
Every team in the NFL has to deal with injuries, adversity and tough circumstances. It just so happens that the Ravens have lost their greatest player in franchise history and perhaps the greatest inside linebacker of all time, in Ray Lewis, for the season and potentially his career. However, he is not the best player on the defense missing in action in 2012.
The Baltimore Ravens are 5-1 after six games. They have found a way to overcome the loss of 2011′s defensive player of the year, Terrell Suggs, so far. The Ravens have virtually had nothing go right on defense this year that can be partially be attributed to the loss of Suggs due to his partially torn achilles tendon that has kept him on the PUP list this season. He is eligible to return this week, although most speculate he will not return until after the Ravens’ bye week.
Without Suggs, the defense has been in the words of Simon Cowell: ” Absolutely dreadful.”
The Ravens are 26th in the league in yards given up on defense (396.7). They are the third most penalized defense in the NFL with 48 penalties resulting in 390 penalty yards. The Ravens have also given up the fifth most rushing yards in the league with 819 rushing yards and for the first-time in franchise history, the team gave up over 200 yards of rushing in back-to-back games.
These are not the Ravens of old. This defense is different. This is the defense that has Ray Lewis, Haloti Ngata and Lardarius Webb up to this point of the season.
Bottom line: The defense stinks with these guys and will stink all year.
Ray Lewis may be leading the team in tackles, but that number is somewhat misleading. The 37-year-old has shown his age in that he is either too slow to fill the hole, can’t get off blocks or over-pursues plays, resulting in subsequent arm tackles or tackles five yards or more down the field.
He just isn’t the same guy anymore.
Emotionally, the torn triceps injury is devastating as no one gets their team more ready for a football game than Ray Lewis. If he looks into your face and tells you to, “Get pissed off, right now” I think you’re listening. On the field, it might not make as much a difference.
Jameel McClain and Danelle Ellerbe are by no means the second comings of Mike Singletary, but they will have to suffice for this season.
The motto for this defense so far has been bend but don’t break and as much as they have broken down trying to defend the run against some guy named Dunbar, they have managed to pull out the best record in the AFC.
Lardarius Webb’s injury is a little more frightening.
Jimmy Smith and Cary Williams have had trouble displaying consistency both the pass and run game. Although Cary Williams is leading the team in interceptions, after coming into this season without an interception in his career, he has simply had more opportunities because teams are looking his way more because they have a mismatch with their best receiver on him.
Plain and simple, it is time for these two to earn their stripes.
Lardarius Webb’s impact in the run game will be missed as he blitzes off the edge like no other corner on the roster and comes up and makes plays in the backfield like an outside linebacker. His tackling ability is stellar for an undersized corner. His ability to play in the nickel will also be missed as inexperience players like Corey Graham and Chykie Brown will get their chance to show defensive coordinator Dean Pees what they can do.
In addition to the secondary issues, Haloti Ngata suffered a minor setback with a sprained knee, but it should not cause him to miss any time as he is expected to play Sunday versus the Houston Texans.