Ravens: This player is the key to a Super Bowl run


Jul 30, 2015; Owings Mills, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens defensive back Kendrick Lewis (23) makes a catch during defensive drills of day one of training camp at Under Armour Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Ask anyone what sunk the Baltimore Ravens’ 2014 season, and you’ll get a unanimous answer.  Anybody that paid attention to what this team was doing last year knows that the secondary was an unmitigated disaster, from a talent, depth, and injury standpoint.

Fast forward to this offseason.  While some might be disappointed that the Ravens didn’t spend a high draft pick on a big name college cornerback or safety, they did approach these issues in a very Ozzie-esque way.  That is, by hitting the bargain bin.

The Ravens shored up their cornerback depth by drafting Tray Walker and adding veterans Kyle Arrington and Cassius Vaughn via free agency.  They also signed safety Kendrick Lewis, a 16 game starter for the Houston Texans last season.

Arrington has been very impressive so far in camp, and he shores up a position that the Ravens haven’t truly filled since Corey Graham left – slot corner.  But it’s the addition of Lewis that appears to be the most significant so far.

Lewis has made an impression since the day he walked into Baltimore.  Way back in March, John Harbaugh had nothing but glowing things to say about the veteran safety.

“He’s a good, smart player, and I think his best football is in front of him,” Harbaugh said at the NFL Owners Meetings in Phoenix.

“Kendrick Lewis is a veteran safety,” Harbaugh said. “The first thing I noticed about him is he knows how to play the position. He’s in position, he’s got good eyes, he’s got really good range, he’s a good tackler.”

Dec 21, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans free safety Kendrick Lewis (21) cannot make an interception during the first half against the Baltimore Ravens at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The praise continued as Lewis hit the field for minicamp.

“Kendrick has done a really good job,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s a football player. He’s quiet. He doesn’t say much, but he comes out and takes care of his business.”

“He really understands the game, makes plays, always in the right place,” Harbaugh said. “It’ll be fun to see when the pads come on how he plays, but he has done a really nice job.”

“I see him in the weight room, I see him in the meeting room, I see him on the field just working like crazy. Very smart player, really gets the game and communicates really well back there, so he has looked very good.”

Dean Pees joined Harbaugh this week in heaping praise on Lewis.

“But there are a lot of guys that are ‘intelligent’ football players and you find out maybe they’re not,” Pees said. “He’s everything as advertised, and more.”

“He’s just very definitive.  He’s not wishy-washy.  Boom, I make the call, we play it, I like that. That’s what you want back there. You want guys to make decisions, make the call, get everybody lined up, and let’s go. When there’s indecisiveness, especially if you see guys looking around for a call or something like that, that’s not good on defense. So, I really like the way he’s playing right now.”

Oct 5, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) fumbles the ball after being tackled by Houston Texans free safety Kendrick Lewis (21) in the first quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

It’s easy to overlook the need for a proven leader in the defensive backfield last season because the Ravens were simply looking for warm bodies to trot out on the field.  But the team hasn’t had a true, vocal leader since Ed Reed retired.

Now, Lewis is no Reed, but he is a steadying presence for a secondary that needs to establish an identity. He keeps his head down and goes to work on every play.  Lewis has taken the initiative to take the reigns and hold his teammates accountable.  That’s true leadership.

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Lewis spends a great deal of time each week preparing for his upcoming opponents as well.  His extra time in the film room and classroom sets a stellar example for everyone else, and raises the expectations for those around him.

Having a stable, intelligent, and determined player in the defensive backfield is going to work wonders for this secondary.  Kendrick Lewis isn’t the most talented guy in the NFL, nor is he the fastest or strongest.  But he is going to work harder than the next guy, and hold everyone else to a higher standard.

And that’s exactly what the Baltimore Ravens brought him in to do – provide a steadying presence that will get them over the hump and back in the Super Bowl hunt.

Next: 5 teams that just can't beat the Ravens

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