By Samuel Njoku
The Ravens have played five games so far in the 2012 NFL season, and one thing has become abundantly clear: The Baltimore Ravens’ defense isn’t what it used to be.
For more than a decade, the Ravens have dominated in almost every major statistic on the defensive side of the ball, but so far this year the Ravens have struggled to stop the opposing offense. As of Week Five, the Ravens rank 24th in overall defense. The secondary has never really dominated anyone in recent years. Since the loss of Chris McAllister, Baltimore has struggled against top tier receiving corps. The unit usually relies on turnovers to make their mark on gameday. But this season, the secondary can’t seem to stop anyone. Though Cary Williams has improved over his last two starts, he has had a rough season overall so far.
The loss of Terrell Suggs has been damaging to say the least. The pass rush for the Baltimore Ravens has been extremely inconsistent. The only way the Ravens are able to get decent pressure on the passer is by rushing 5 or six defenders at one time. This doesn’t help the aforementioned secondary that struggles on 1-on-1 assignments.
But perhaps the most surprising stat rests in the Ravens rush defense. On Sunday, Baltimore was flat out dominated by Jamaal Charles and the Chiefs offensive line. Ray Lewis seemed to be physically removed from plays by the Chiefs bigger offensive lineman. Baltimore got their act together in the second half, but it wasn’t pretty. The Chiefs finished the day running for over 214 yards in a losing effort. The Ravens will tell you the “losing effort” portion of that statement is what matters most. And they have a point. Baltimore is (4-1) for the third straight season and looks to once again be one of the elite teams in the NFL. But the question remains: What is going on with the Ravens’ defense?
Many will point to Terrell Suggs. The reigning defensive player of the year tore his Achilles tendon in the offseason and has yet to play this year. While Suggs is known as one of the funnier guys in the Ravens locker room, he was no joke on the football field. Offensive coordinators lost hours of sleep trying to gameplan ways to stop Suggs. Their hard work usually paid little dividends as he dominated in almost every game he played. It would be foolish to think that a loss of that magnitude wouldn’t impact Baltimore’s defensive unit.
Of course, the Ravens would lose Jarrett Johnson in free agency. Baltimore has yet to find a linebacker that can set the edge the way JJ did in previous years. Next to Kelly Gregg, Jarrett Johnson may be the most underrated Raven of all time. The Ravens also lost defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano when he accepted a head coaching job with the Colts. Current DC Dean Pees hasn’t had the same amount of success as Pagano. But players seem to believe it’s just a matter of gelling together as a unit.
“We’ve got to work on every aspect of our game,” said Cary Williams. “We’re far from perfect, we know what is expected of us, and we just need to come together as a unit and get the job done.”
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Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. He can be reached for comments at SamuelN870@gmail.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.