How long can the Ravens’ defense stay hot?

Ravens. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Ravens. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

The Baltimore Ravens are limping to the finish line, but at least the end is near. They’ll have to depend on their defense to finish the job in the 2022 regular season.

Ever since Lamar Jackson got injured in Week 13, the Ravens simply have not been the same. Jackson wasn’t exactly playing at an MVP level when he sprained his PCL, scoring just four passing touchdowns in his last five full games, yet the star quarterback still remained the heartbeat of the team’s offense given his ability to gash opponents on the ground and make key passes when needed.

With Jackson sidelined, Baltimore’s red zone production has dipped even lower. Their offensive efficiency has suffered a huge drop-off and was recently ranked 27th in the league in EPA per drive.

The only consistently good part of this Ravens team is kicker Justin Tucker and a stacked defense featuring new addition Roquan Smith.

The Athletic’s Ted Nguyen wrote glowing words on Smith and the red-hot Ravens’ defense:

"Since joining the Ravens in Week 9, Smith ranks second among linebackers in splash plays (29), which TruMedia defines as pressures leading to throwaways, stuffs for no gain, interceptions, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries, pass breakups and stops on third down and fourth down.The Ravens’ defense has carried this team while Lamar Jackson has been injured. If Jackson gets healthy and the Baltimore defense continues to get stops, the Ravens will be a dangerous team in the postseason."

Ravens face two difficult divisional rivals in last two regular season games

In Week 17, the defense will have to gear up for one of the most physical matchups of the year against a gritty Pittsburgh Steelers side. Then, in the season finale, the defense has to find a way to stop an in-form Joe Burrow and his cohort of elite and speedy wideouts.

All things considered, the defense faces enough pressure as it is. Once considered a unit prone to fourth quarter collapses, the Ravens have tightened their backfield in recent weeks. Granted, they’ve only faced middling offenses such as Desmond Ridder and the Atlanta Falcons, and they memorably gave up a few too many chunk plays against Deshaun Watson and the Cleveland Browns.

Given the fact that the Ravens’ offensive unit isn’t scoring early or often in games, the defense deserves credit for keeping the score close; no doubt the team’s game plan would go awry if they were down by multiple scores early and needed to rely on Huntley to pass more, which suffice to say is not his strong suit.

Even with Marcus Peters reportedly out and Calais Campbell questionable for Week 17, Baltimore boasts the depth to maintain a high standard of excellence across all levels of the field.

Defensive end Brent Urban, who was signed this past offseason, will likely fill in for Campbell while Brandon Stephens and Kevin Seymour will try to fill Peters’ large shoes.

The defense appears to have a solid backup plan at nearly every position assuming one of its starters gets injured; the same cannot be said for, say, the wideout unit, which disintegrated following Rashod Bateman’s injury.

To put it simply, the Ravens’ best chance at potentially winning the division is when the defense stays organized, productive, and prevents opponents from taking a big early lead. That may seem self-explanatory, but it particularly applies to this 2022 Ravens team, at least until Lamar Jackson returns.

Next. Breaking down a worst-case scenario: Ravens face Bengals in Wild Card round. dark

For the next two games, the burden on Baltimore’s defense only grows heavier, and the unit will step onto the field drive after drive knowing they’ll have to work even harder to make up for the offense’s frustrating shortcomings.