Without a doubt, the 2000 Baltimore Ravens had one of the best defenses in NFL history. Since then, the organization has been trying to find a group that could match the legendary 2000 defense. While they haven’t quite gotten there yet, they have found some solid men to round out the roster. Here’s a look at five key players on the Baltimore Ravens defense to keep an eye out for this season.
The 2011 Defensive Player of the Year was sidelined for part of last season after an achilles tendon tear during the offseason. An injury like that was quite a disappointment for Terrell Suggs, especially after the outstanding season he just completed. But like many injured Ravens’ players before him, Suggs had a remarkable recovery time and made it back onto the field at M&T Bank Stadium on October 21, 2012.
Suggs preformed well last season despite the injury, but was not at back at his “Defensive player of the Year” ability. While Suggs came back with what seemed to be more passion than ever before, he lacked his typical ferociousness on the field. He was not as explosive as he was the season before when it came to tackling and playmaking.
Suggs has the capability to reclaim his Defensive Player of the Year title, as long as his work ethic matches his enthusiasm for the game.
2. Haloti Ngata
Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata know the Ravens’ defense better than anyone on the roster this season and both are going to have to step up as leaders on defense. The key for Ngata to be successful this season is to stay in shape and free from injuries. Ngata suffered a MCL sprain during Super Bowl XLVII in addition to ankle and shoulder injuries earlier in the season. Ngata has spent his offseason resting and trying to get back to 100 percent.
While Ngata’s size helps him on the defensive line, his outstanding athletic ability for his massive stature is what makes him so versatile. He is able to switch from defensive end to nose tackle and perform exceptionally well in both positions. The Ravens are fortunate to have a player like Ngata to step in and fill in the gaps on defense, which Ngata does better than most defensive linemen in the league.
3. Lardarius Webb
Another player that the Baltimore Ravens need to stay healthy this season is Lardarius Webb. The Ravens struggled to find a solid cornerback for a few years, but they found their silver lining with Webb in 2009. Unfortunately, Webb has suffered two ACL tears since debuting with the Ravens.
Webb was preforming at a Pro Bowl caliber before the injury last season. Most of the problems in the Ravens’ secondary came after Webb’s injury. He is expected to be at training camp with the rest of the team next week. With Webb back in the lineup, the coverage in the backfield will look more like a Super Bowl defense should.
4. Elvis Dumervil
Ravens fans were hurting a bit after hearing the news that outside linebacker Paul Kruger was headed for Cleveland. But it wasn’t long before the Ravens found a more-than-adequate replacement for Kruger. A fax machine “faux pas” in Denver led the three-time Pro Bowler to Baltimore.
Dumervil and Suggs are a petrifying tandem of pass-rushers to face on the football field. Dumervil has 63.5 sacks in his six-year NFL career so far and Suggs has managed 84.5 sacks since entering the league in 2003. The Ravens have lacked a forceful pairing for a few years, but this duo will be very dangerous and are capable of doing some serious damage on the field.
5. Matt Elam
The safety out of the University of Florida agreed to terms on his rookie contract with the Baltimore Ravens for four years worth just over $6.7 million. Elam was drafted as the Ravens’ first round pick in the 2013 Draft.
The rookie comes into the league with high expectations from the Ravens organization, fans, and himself. The Ravens have had the dependability of Ed Reed in the backfield since 2002. Elam brings energy, hard hits, and a football mind to the field, similar to his predecessor. It will be interesting to see how he performs at this level, but if his college days are any indication, Elam will have a very successful NFL career.
Matt Elam will be splitting time with veteran Michael Huff, which the Ravens brought in as a free agent from Oakland this season. The two are very versatile and will play whichever safety position they need to.
And they will excel. While Elam will be one to watch in a Ravens uniform this year, it will be the interchanging of Elam and Huff that will captivate the fans in 2013.
There is a lot of versatility and many dynamic players on the Ravens defense this year. As long as everything goes according to plan, the Ravens have the potential to make other offenses shiver at the thought of facing them on the field, just like the 2000 Baltimore Ravens defense had the ability of doing.