Ravens defensive struggles can’t be patched over


Oct 11, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Josh McCown (13) scores a touchdown during the third quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Quickly, what is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about the Baltimore Ravens?  Aside from some obscenities that we can’t publish here, I’m guessing the first thing most folks think about is great defense.  This is a franchise that has long prided itself on strong defensive play.

But 2015’s version of the vaunted Ravens defense might be one of the worst in team history.  This is a sudden and stunning development, make no mistake.  Despite playing above average run defense, the Ravens secondary play and lack of pass rush is alarming.

And it’s losing them a lot of games.

Let’s start with the secondary.  After getting caught short in the defensive backfield last season, the Ravens worked hard to add talent in that area this past offseason.  The results, unfortunately, have been disastrous.

For you math lovers out there, the Ravens have given up an average of 382 yards and 10 touchdowns versus only 2 interceptions across their last four losses.

Colin Kaepernick, a guy who 49ers fans were begging the franchise to bench merely two weeks ago, is the latest quarterback to torch the Ravens.  Kap managed a robust stat line Sunday, throwing for 340 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions.

Perhaps the most alarming aspect of the Ravens secondary is the number of big plays they are allowing. The trend continued in week 6 as Kaepernick was 4 of 6 for 200 yards on passes over 20 yards.  Before facing the Ravens, Kap had exactly 4 completions over 20 yards in the first 5 games of the season combined.

John Harbaugh, for one, has seen enough.  The generally level headed coach was on fire Sunday after watching newly acquired cornerback Shareece Wright allow a 76 yard touchdown to former Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith.

So what, exactly, has changed since 2014, when the Ravens made a deep playoff run despite similarly horrible play in the secondary?  That’s an easy one – the pass rush isn’t generating consistent pressure. Despite defensive coordinator Dean Pees trying pretty much everything in the book, it just isn’t happening.

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The Ravens simply have a talent issue with the current roster.  They don’t have enough proficient pass rushers left up front, and they don’t have the big, physical corners they need to effectively play press coverage in the back.

The Ravens were able to mask their deficiencies last year because they had an effective pass rush.  Now, without Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, and Pernell McPhee wrecking havoc up front, they can no longer patch things over.

It’s cost them their shot at the playoffs this season, and probably even their shot at a winning season.

Next: Cheers and jeers for week 6

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