The Baltimore Ravens were crushing the San Francisco 49ers with lights out play – until the lights actually did go out in Super Bowl XLVII. In the “Brothers Bowl” game, Joe Flacco was praying and then chucking the ball into the air like a bride throwing her bouquet up for grabs. Anquan Boldin consistently soared high and out fought the 49ers defensive backs in the mid-air “scrum.” Boldin answered Flacco’s prayers with authority, ripping down six receptions for 104 yards and a touchdown The final score of the game – Ravens 34, 49ers 31 – is misleading, because the Ravens were dismantling the 49ers until the “sun” set for a short time during the game.
The Ravens defense was demolishing the 49ers offense, until it got too dark to work. Surely, they had one of the top defenses of all time, right? Not so fast! Last year the Ravens defense allowed 351 yards per game, good for only 17th in NFL defensive rankings. They were 17th in the league with 37 sacks and recovered 12 fumbles, eighth in the league. As you can see, these aren’t great defensive stats for a Super Bowl Champion. It can be argued that the reason Baltimore won the Super Bowl was because of Jim Caldwell taking over as offensive coordinator.
But don’t weep for the 2013 Ravens defense like a boy who kisses a girl for the first time, and then gets slapped. Because I think the Ravens defense will be better than they were last year! General manager Ozzie Newsome has rebuilt the Ravens defense like a master mechanic working on a Hemi. As most fantasy players know by now, linebacker
Ray Lewis has retired. He’s been the ageless wonder and spearhead for the Ravens. He demanded hard work and 100 percent effort from his teammates during practice, in the weight room and on game days.
Remember, however, that Lewis missed 10 games last year, and while he was out other Ravens linebackers got plenty of “camera time,” and the defense got much younger. This is something pundits noticed last year – the Ravens defense had aged. Besides losing Lewis, this defense also lost – among others – defensive backs Lardarius Webb and Ed Reed. Reed was a great player once, but age has crept up on him, too.
But now for the good wine! The Ravens have the depth of the Alabama Crimson Tide at linebacker and defensive back. So, don’t expect much, if any, decline at these two positions. At the linebacker position three notable players are returning: Terrell Suggs, Paul Kruger and second-year player Courtney Upshaw, who is going to be a great player in the NFL. He’ll start to play breathtaking defense at the outside linebacker position as he gains experience. Second-round draft pick, linebacker Arthur Brown is in the shuffle, too. The defense also picked up defensive end
Elvis Dumervil from Denver and defensive back Michael Huff from Oakland. Nose tackle Brandon Williams will battle nose tackle Terrence Cody for the starting job, but whoever loses this war will still receive a lot of playing time.
In conclusion, I think the Baltimore Ravens will have a much younger and more athletic defense this year. The real weakness of this team may be its offense. With the loss of Anquan Boldin, the team needs some wide receivers to help out
Torrey Smith, tight end Dennis Pitta and running back Ray Rice. The Ravens are a class organization who will have a classy defense that will outperform most of their fantasy projections this year, especially when the youngsters grow up after a couple of games.
The main warning I see for this team is the loss of linebacker
Ray Lewis! He was older and injured some last year, and I think his quality of play dropped considerably. But anybody who saw his emotions during the Ravens Super Bowl ride – he was crying at times –knows how much he meant to this team. Lewis can’t be replaced as team motivator and that could damage this defense the most!
Another problem that could arise is the youth of the defense. I believe, however, that it will only take a couple of games for these young guys to play defense like the Ravens of past lore!