The year was 2012, the twilight of the Ravens glory. The last time the Baltimore franchise took home the Lombardi trophy. That team in 2012 had the perfect mix of future Hall of Famers, Superstars, and Role Players on both sides of the ball, but that defense held them through thick and thin; allowing them to win that Super Bowl.
Since that magical 2012 season, the Ravens haven’t performed up to the standards their accustom to. They’ve missed the playoffs three out of the last four years, and their defense had not been performing to the standard that the Ravens or their fans are used to. A lot of that can be attributed to the decimation of the defensive depth chart through the 2013 & 2014 offseasons; with the losses of Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Haloti Ngata, Elvis Dumervil and plenty more players over the past few off-seasons, but Ozzie Newsome and that front office have been re-tooling the defense heavily.
Fast forward to 2017. The Ravens defense can now officially be considered “re-tooled”. To start off the 2017 season they have put together two STELLAR back to back performances. First on the road against the Cincinnati Bengals they forced 4 Interceptions, 1 Fumble, and had 5 Sacks on the day, while pitching a shutout. Follow that up with another 4 Interception, 3 Sack, and 2 Forced Fumble (only 1 recovered) game against rookie QB Deshone Kizer and the Browns in Week 2. Following 2 performances like that, Ravens fans everywhere can’t help but be ecstatic for what the rest of the season holds for their squad.
The real question being posed though is this: Is this defense good enough to win them another Super Bowl? The answer? Absolutely. Despite a dismal 8-8 season last year, the Ravens defense still ranked 7th in the league. Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome have made upgrades throughout this offseason on the defensive side of the ball signing Safety Tony Jefferson from the Cardinals to team up with 2016 prize signing Eric Weddle and CB Brandon Carr from the Cowboys to really sure up their secondary.
Not only that but the Ravens used their first 4 picks in the 2017 NFL Draft on the defensive side of the ball. Newsome was also able to re-sign arguably the best Nose Tackle/Run Stopping defender in the game in Brandon Williams. Compile all of those offseason transactions with the great group of young talent the Ravens already have on their roster with players such as: Za’Darius Smith, Jimmy Smith, C.J Mosley, and Carl Davis just to name a few; it’s no wonder the Ravens are having this type of success early in the season.
The Ravens defense, like the one from 2012, has a great mix of youth, potential HOF inductees, and role players. They are led by former Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs, as Suggs is the heart and soul of that defense and plays the “Ray Lewis” leadership role for this 2017 team. With Suggs & Mosley at the helm, the Ravens are off to a historic start to the season. The Ravens defense is the first team since the ’92 Steelers to record 4 INT in back to back games to open up a season. The mix of pass rush, stout run defense, a ball hawking secondary, and an athletic, smart, and instinctive linebacking core is what makes the Ravens defense so fearsome.
Ultimately it is early in the season, and it is plenty early to be throwing around the word “historic” when the team hasn’t even played their Week 3 game. However, if the Ravens can continue to perform even half as good as they have in the first two weeks through the rest of the season, the word historic will definitely fit nicely beside this defense. It will be must watch TV for any football fan to see if the Ravens can keep up their historic play, and they’ll be tested in the coming weeks. In Week 3 they travel across the pond for a 9:30 am kickoff against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Leonard Fournette at Wembley Stadium in London, England. They then travel back home (and fight the time change) to take on the Steelers at home in M&T Bank Stadium, a place where the Ravens have been historically good through the past few years.
To say that the Ravens Defense is good enough to single handedly carry them to the Super Bowl is lofty, but this defense is definitely good enough to help them get them there. They are going to need consistency from Joe Flacco and the boys, who have played fairly well through the first two weeks of the year. Life for Flacco and the offense just got a lot harder after hearing the news that Pro Bowl Guard Marshall Yanda fractured his ankle in Week 2 and is now out for the season. However, if Flacco, Maclin, and a committee backfield of Terrance West, Javorius Allen, and Danny Woodhead (once he returns healthy) can weather that storm, and can put up anywhere between 17-25 points a game consistently and not turn the ball over, then that should be the recipe for success for the Baltimore Ravens in 2017.