Ravens Success in 2015 Hinges on Young Defensive Players


Dec 28, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Connor Shaw (9) scrambles away from Baltimore Ravens defensive end Timmy Jernigan (97) during the first quarter at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Youth is almost always a good thing in sports.  Especially in the NFL, when careers are generally short and follow a rather sharp trajectory.  Rookies come in and sometimes make an immediate impact, but more often than not they must take some time to adjust to the pro game.  But while inexperience and growing pains can hurt a team, so can letting a roster get too old, too quickly.

The Ravens are not a team to rest on their laurels and cling to too many veterans.  Sure, they have a few “senior citizens” on the roster: Daryl Smith (33), Steve Smith (36), Terrell Suggs (32), and Elvis Dumervil (31), and Chris Canty (32) are all on the back end of their respective careers.  But the team is counting on their veteran experience perhaps more than ever in 2015 as they have pieced together a rather young overall group of players.

While we haven’t seen any NFL roster average age analysis for 2015 yet, the Ravens were middle of the pack in 2014.  This offseason has seen them retain most of their 30+ veterans, with the exception of the departure of Haloti Ngata.  But with the exception of Dumervil, Canty, and Smith, this is a very young defense that has only gotten younger this offseason.  And the Ravens are banking big time on those youngsters having a big impact in 2015.

Letting Haloti Ngata walk after a dominant season was a big gamble that shows a ton of faith in this young defensive line.  Aside from our three defensive veterans, there isn’t a single guy on the line that is currently over the age of 26.  Timmy Jernigan (22) and Brandon Williams (26) proved last season that they are impact players, but what about the rest?

Turns out, the rest are a pretty big question mark.  You’ve got the rookies in Carl Davis, Za’Darius Smith, Breene Beyer, Trey DePriest, and Nick Perry.  The secondary is still fairly young with newly extended Jimmy Smith (26), Lardarius Webb (29), Will Hill (25), Matt Elam (23), and Kendrick Lewis (26).  But all of those guys are proven commodities at this point in their careers (except for Elam, of course).

So it seems that the Ravens are truly banking on their young inside linebackers and defensive linemen to hold things together.  They obviously aren’t worried about C.J. Mosley, Jernigan, or Williams continuing the success they found last season.  It really comes down to the rookies and the unprovens.  At least a couple of them must step up if this team is going to compete for another Super Bowl.

Out of that group, I believe the players who have the best chance of truly making a significant impact in 2015 are Carl Davis and perhaps one of Karpon Lewis-Moore or Brent Urban.  Davis projects as a guy who can come in and be a strong rotational linemen from day one.  Both Lewis-Moore and Urban looked quite good before going down with injuries in camp last offseason, but both are back and 100%.

More from Ravens News

I lack similar faith in the secondary, where Elam continues to disappoint and Terrence Brooks appears to be headed for the PUP list.  Tray Walker is more likely to be brought along slowly as a small school prospect, and both Rashaan Melvin and Anthony Levine have been inconsistent.  It’s a big reason why the Ravens brought in veterans Kyle Arrington and Kenrick Lewis to shore up the depth chart.

So while the young, exciting offensive players like Buck Allen, Breshad Perriman, and Maxx Williams get most of the press, it’s the development of the Ravens’ young defensive players that perhaps deserves the most attention.  The organization has assembled a nice mix of youth and experience on paper.  Now we just need to see how it ultimately works on the field.

Next: Five things to watch for at Ravens OTAs

More from Ebony Bird