Are the Ravens rebuilding their defense?

Are the Ravens rebuilding their defense?

The Baltimore Ravens have had some impressive defences over the years, including the team in 2000 that allowed an all-time low 165 points in the regular season. But one of the features that traditionally stands out are stud linebackers like Ray Lewis, Peter Boulware and Adalius Thomas who have all made names for themselves in recent years.

Boulware set the bar high for Ravens’ pass rushers when he set the single season record for sacks at 15 (a number since surpassed by Elvis Dumervil in 2014) and made dropping back to pass against the Ravens a lot more dangerous. Over his 8 year career he piled up a whopping 70 sacks and totaled 197 tackles between 2001 and 2003. In fact he was the 1997 defensive rookie of the year and was named to the Pro Bowl four times.

Lewis needs no introduction. Probably the best linebacker in the league for the majority of his career, he played his whole career for the Ravens (1996-2012). Lewis epitomised the intensity that the Ravens fans crave. Since the NFL started keeping statistics on tackles in 2001, Lewis piled up 1,336 tackles and was renowned as one of the most punishing defenders in the league. What’s perhaps more surprising is the fact Lewis had 31 interceptions in his career. Lewis tallied 13 Pro Bowl appearances, a Super Bowl MVP award, two defensive player of the year awards and was voted to the 2000s All Pro team.

Thomas was drafted by the Ravens in 2000 and was another fearsome defender. He totaled 371 tackles between 2001 and 2006 before signing a big money deal with the New England Patriots following the 2006 season. During his 7 years with the Ravens, Thomas sacked the opposing quarterback 38.5 times and was voted to the Pro Bowl twice.

So how do the Ravens linebackers of 2016 stack up against the Ravens linebackers of the past? Can they continue their dominance?

This year the Ravens defence will see the return of Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs should start outside. However, both are recovering from serious injuries and are on the downside of their career (they’re 32 and 34 respectively). Suggs is recovering from a torn ACL and may need time to return to his 2014 form.

Last year for the Eagles, Kiko Alonso was a much heralded addition who had suffered a similar injury. He never regained the form that he showed in his rookie year in Buffalo and was traded this off-season to Miami. Suggs seems to have very little doubt of how the season will go, saying: “The last time we played, we were the (NFL’s) No. 1 (sacks) tandem, so that’s something we’ll try to defend once we both get back healthy.” Personally I wonder how effective the pair can be if kept on the field for a prolonged period of time.

On the inside, C.J Mosley hopes to build on his first two years during which he proved a tackling machine (250). He made the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2014 as he learned from Lewis and was solid in 2016.

However, the team has an opening on the inside. Second round pick and former Boise State star Kamalei Correa is in the mix to plug the gap and will compete with Arthur Brown and Zachary Orr.

Head Coach John Harbaugh describe Correa as a player with “inside linebacker traits.”

The 2016 season could be one that is remembered as the year the Ravens began the transition to youth as both Suggs and Dumervil see their playing time reduced to keep them effective as pass rushers. Mosley shows promise and Correa will hopefully reward the Ravens for picking him in the second round.

Jonathan Cumbleton

Johnny has been an Eagles fan since 1992 when he was in awe of Randall Cunningham. He covers the AFC North for Ninety-Nine Yards. You can follow him on Twitter @Cumbleton.

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