The Baltimore Ravens 2017 defense has been the team’s strong suit for success. Though we look at big names like Terrell Suggs, it’s time to appreciate Anthony Levine.
Make a list in your head right now of the five best players on the Baltimore Ravens defense this season. How does it look? I’d imagine it’d be something like this:
You’d be more than justified to that opinion. All five of the aforementioned players are playing at a Pro Bowl level. Their impact on the team is without value, as missing any one of them would be detrimental. We should know that after the loss of Jimmy Smith to a torn Achilles.
But, the success of this defense is also built with quality play from other players such as Matt Judon, Tony Jefferson, and even rookie Marlon Humphrey. Without these core players, the Ravens defense would look entirely different. That being said, what if I told you the Ravens had a secret weapon that completes the defense and no one talks about him?
Who is it? Is it nose tackle Michael Pierce? Good guess, but no. How about Patrick Onwuasor? Definitely an underrated player, but not quite.
Give up? Here’s your answer: DB/LB Anthony Levine.
I know what you’re thinking, “How can a back-up be that important to a team’s defense?” It’s certainly a fair question. In fact, Levine’s career has been quite underwhelming. The sixth-year man out of Tennessee State has just 85 career tackles and one interception.
True, the 30-year old Anthony Levine isn’t quite the Pro Bowl-caliber defender Ravens fans are used to, but he doesn’t have to be. Here are the facts: Anthony Levine is one of the most important pieces to the Ravens defense, and without him that defense wouldn’t be the same.
A bold statement? Absolutely. But, that doesn’t make it not false. Levine is vital to the Ravens 2017 defense.
The unsung hero of the Ravens defense
On the surface, Anthony Levine has accumulated 26 tackles, three sacks, and a single interception in 2017. Nothing about that is eye-popping. But, turn on the tape and those numbers acquire an entirely new perspective.
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If you pay close attention to the Ravens play, you’ve noticed Levine making plays. Levine has become the Ravens “money-backer.” For those of you who aren’t sure what that is, the money-backer is a hybrid position created by the Arizona Cardinals. Essentially, the player is a safety that rotates into the front seven as an inside linebacker on different defensive packages.
In today’s NFL, the value of the money-backer is priceless (puns intended). Having that versatile chess piece on your defense opens up so many possibilities for creative match-ups and play designs. Levine can drop into coverage just as easily as he can rush the passer and stuff the run.
The versatility doesn’t stop there. No, Levine has also seen time at cornerback this season. So, for all you math whizzes, that’s not one, not two, but three positions that Levine has seen time at this season.
Considering the losses the Ravens have had this year across the defense, whether it be through injuries or obscenely underwhelming play, we need to seriously start appreciating guys like Anthony Levine who do it all.
Levine doesn’t shrug his shoulders or put his head down when he’s asked to do a task. He’s a kind of player that serves his team no matter what.
And let’s not forget that Levine doesn’t even start. Levine comes off the bench and performs at a very high level. While he hasn’t been an All-Pro, we cannot overlook the importance of having that kind of player readily available.
It’s not about the numbers, Ravens Flock, rather, it’s about impact. Every time I tune in to a Ravens game, I always find Levine out there making plays and he does it all.
The next time you watch a Ravens game, keep your eyes on #41. He won’t be out there for every snap but watch him when he’s on the field. Levine is a great open-field tackler, an underrated pass rusher, and a well-above-average cover-man.
There’s an old saying that defines Levine’s impact perfectly: Quality over quantity. The Ravens don’t need Levine to play every snap. Rather, the Ravens need top-notch play from Anthony Levine when he’s called upon and that is precisely what he does.
The Ravens defense certainly leans more on the play of guys like Mosley and Suggs more than Levine, but it’s the play of guys like Anthony Levine that fuels this Ravens defense. Levine’s impact is beyond measure. His teammates and coaches should be well-aware of that, but it’s past time that the casual Ravens fan learns Levine’s name.