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Stronger Ravens defense is needed in case offense sputters

Think the Ravens defense will be improved enough to offset any underperformance by the offense?

The Ravens are banking on it.

Ryan Mink of the Ravens media department collected some opinions and conjectures on the subject of the Ravens defense’s need to improve to “legendary” status in 2017—here are some highlights:

“Safety Tony Jefferson said the Ravens defense could be “legendary,” and he didn’t back down from that lofty goal on “The Lounge” podcast. Other Ravens players have also strongly stated that the unit’s goal is to be No. 1 in the league this year and that they expect nothing less.”

Putting aside “legendary,” is the Ravens’ 2017 defense capable of leading Baltimore to the Super Bowl?

ESPN’s Jamison Hensley got the opinions of his fellow AFC North reporters, and they aren’t so convinced.

Jeremy Fowler, Pittsburgh Steelers reporter:
“The Ravens’ defense can be top five in the league in 2017, but it’s not quite Super Bowl-caliber just yet. Let’s call it AFC North-caliber. Baltimore can win the division behind an always stout rushing defense and a safety tandem of Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson. Beyond that, Baltimore needs more offensive help. Cornerback durability presents potential issues. Brandon Carr is 31, Jimmy Smith has missed 11 games in three years and Tavon Young tore his ACL this offseason. First-round pick Marlon Humphrey must be ready to play right away. Terrell Suggs is still an effective rusher but might be nearing the end. Overall, this group is very good, possibly great, but won’t carry Baltimore alone.”

Pat McManamon, Cleveland Browns reporter:
“Do they have a formula for stopping Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger? Apologies, our mothers always said never to answer a question with a question. On paper, the Ravens should be excellent defensively. They finished seventh in the league a year ago. They added Jefferson and Carr and retained Brandon Williams. The emphasis on defense, obviously, is to counter what New England and Pittsburgh bring. But in this era it’s a huge challenge to win on defense the way the Ravens did in 2000. And this defense is not as dominant as that Super Bowl group. Baltimore’s defense will take it to the playoffs (it has to happen on that side of the ball), but come playoff time the teams with the quarterback and the offense carry the day.”

Katherine Terrell, Cincinnati Bengals reporter:
“The Ravens’ defense certainly has the hype after investing heavily in the unit in the offseason. The first four picks of the draft went to defense. Clearly, the Ravens are serious about improving. But will it produce immediate results? The Ravens are likely going to be a work in progress for a while with so many new faces. The talent is obviously there, but it’s hard to say at this point how everyone will mesh together. On paper, the Ravens already have improved in their secondary, an area where they struggled the most last year. In the first round of the draft, they added Humphrey. It’s too early to say if all of the changes will lead them to postseason success, but the Ravens have certainly started putting the pieces in place to get them back in that direction.”

In summary, Fowler doubts the Ravens’ cornerback depth, and maybe the pass rush. McManamon doesn’t think the defense will be good enough to beat teams in the playoffs. Terrell thinks it’s going to take too long for the new pieces to gel.

“We’ll see,” says Ryan Mink, “But I can bet that Baltimore’s defensive players will use this as [motivational] fodder.”

 

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