Whatever the Ravens do in 2016, it’s clear their defense will have a different look. Here are five changes in store for the Ravens’ defense:
A different starter at inside linebacker next to C. J. Mosley
Mosley spent his first two NFL seasons working next to Daryl Smith, a mentor and close friend. Smith is now with the Buccaneers. So who will be Mosley’s primary running mate at inside linebacker? It could be Zach Orr. It could be Arthur Brown. It could be rookie Kamalei Correa, drafted as a pass rushing outside linebacker, but perhaps versatile enough to play inside. Or the Ravens could still sign a veteran linebacker, if nobody else looks good enough after training camp.
A more hybrid secondary
We know Eric Weddle is a lock to start at one safety spot. We know Lardarius Webb is moving from corner to safety. But we don’t know who will be the primary cornerback opposite Jimmy Smith. We don’t know how often the Ravens will actually play two safeties, or three corners, or other combinations.
The Ravens had difficulty in pass coverage last season, and part of the problem was a lack of versatility. Regardless of who emerges as the primary cornerback opposite Jimmy Smith, the Ravens want to do a better job covering tight ends, slot receivers, and deep threats. They’re willing to try whatever combinations are necessary to accomplish that.
A deeper pass rush rotation
The Ravens’ pass rush fizzled last season after Terrell Suggs (Achilles) went down in Week 1. The Ravens gave Suggs and Elvis Dumervil pass-rushing help by drafting Correa, defensive end Bronson Kaufusi, and outside linebacker-defensive end Matt Judon. They are also expecting outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith to improve on his rookie sack total (5 ½) after getting 3 ½ sacks over the final three games. The hope is that the Ravens’ pass rush will be more effective, and less reliant on Suggs and Dumervil.
More disguises for blitzing
The Ravens would love to get more pressure on quarterbacks without having to blitz. But when they do blitz, defensive coordinator Dean Pees should have more options. Webb and Weddle have experience blitzing from the secondary. Mosley has seven career sacks. If Pees can surprise quarterbacks with well-timed blitzes, he may call more of them.
A younger front seven
With Daryl Smith and defensive end Chris Canty gone, the Ravens’ front seven is younger. They also hope it’s getting more athletic. With the rookie pass rushers, and the continued emergence of defensive linemen Brandon Williams and Timmy Jernigan, the Ravens hope to win more battles up front, forcing opposing quarterbacks into more uncomfortable situations.