The Baltimore Ravens' 2019 season has plenty of memorable moments. Lamar Jackson's run at MVP featured constant highlights and a 14-2 record led to a lot of celebrations.
Yet, one of the lasting images of the campaign is a negative one. In the AFC divisional playoffs against the Tennessee Titans, the Ravens were physically dominated. The offense struggled, but the defense was out-toughed constantly by the underdog's bruising run game.
Despite all the positives of the season, Baltimore left that game defeated and needing to find an identity on defense. In the offseason, that's exactly what the team began to do. NFL Network's Steve Wyche saw the moves made by the Ravens and the players acquired as a sign of what a major focus is for the team.
“Defensively, they go out and get a Calais Campbell, they get [Patrick] Queen, the linebacker out of LSU," Wyche told NBC Sports Washington. “What does that tell you? They don’t want to look at that film with Derrick Henry trucking them all over the playoffs like what happened last year.”
Clearly, as Wyche stated, that feeling of being run over in the playoffs aided the Ravens' desire to make additions to the defense. Campbell is one of the most consistent and dominant defensive linemen and will strengthen the group upfront for Baltimore. Not only will he pressure the quarterback, but plug up some holes as well.
Queen, though a rookie, brings a much-needed body to the linebacking core. There may be some growing pains at first, but there is hope that he will eventually continue the long line of success at the position in the Charm City.
The focus on upgrading the defense shouldn't be viewed as the Ravens believing everything else is as good as can be. Lamar Jackson's 2019 season was phenomenal, but 2020 will be a year of adjustments for him as defenses get more comfortable. As Wyche explains, the loss of Marshal Yanda also takes away a skilled blocker and a tough persona from the offense.
However, that side of the ball also has a plethora of weapons and skills that will allow it to stay competitive in all types of contests. A shootout? No problem for a high-flying group that can move the ball down the field in an instant. A ground game battle? Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins can help with that.
It's not so simple on defense. As the Titans game showed, Baltimore was not prepared to be punched in the mouth like they were. The type of physicality showed by Tennesee's offense could not be matched by the Ravens.
“Styles make fights and that was not the type of style that they were ready to play against," Wyche said.
There is work to be done on defense, but Wyche also believes its nothing the Ravens can't fix. The 2019 defensive unit put together some strong stretches even after losing key names heading into the year. Now with the same core returning and a few new additions, there's no reason to think the unit can't take the next step.
“They lost a lot of leadership on defense," Wyche said of the 2019 team entering the season. "They let Sizzle [Terrell Suggs] go, they let [C.J.] Mosley go and they let [Eric] Weddle go. And look, they were fine.”
“The Ravens constantly reload," he added.
As Wyche says, the Ravens aren't a team that breaks down. They're a franchise that finds areas of weakness and attacks them with reinforcements. 2020 is no different, and the goal now is to eliminate the possibility of a situation like the divisional round happening again.
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