The Ravens reached the bye week with enough of a sample size to realize there’s reason to be concerned about their once-vaunted defense.
If the break came after Week 3 or 4, it might be easier to push aside the fact that Baltimore is 26th in the league in total defense, allowing an alarming 400 yards per game. But this year, the bye has arrived after seven games, nearly half the season.
It’s now even difficult to pump up the Ravens’ scoring defense after they let the Texans become the first team since 2007 to cross the 40-point barrier against them. Baltimore tumbled to 15th in the NFL with 23 points permitted per game.
The basic reasons have been gone over time and again - age, injuries, and ineffectiveness.
But coach John Harbaugh doesn’t envision many major changes ahead for the unit.
“There are always going to be changes. It’s just a matter of what kind of changes are you talking about. Are you talking about drastic changes? Probably not,” he said. “It’s not like we’re going to change to some other kind of a defense. We’ve got our structure, but what we have to do is we have to adjust it. We have to realign some of our rules, as far as gap control against the run or how we play coverages and things like that.
“Personnel-wise, there’s not a whole lot you can do, really. I like our players. Our players are most definitely good enough to get the job done, and we’ll just continue to improve there. Does that mean young guys? We’re going to keep developing the young guys, and as those guys emerge, sure, they are going to get an opportunity.”
Players that have been a part of the defensive woes are upset with what has transpired, especially those who have been members of far better Ravens defenses of the past.
Linebacker Paul Kruger said the team has to look back to recent Ravens run defenses to find help figuring out the problem with this team’s ability to stall the run. Although he didn’t offer many specifics, he did put forth plenty of frustration.
“We haven’t played up to our standards, by any means,” Kruger told reporters Tuesday. “We have the time now, and we have the ability to make those changes and kind of recreate our identity as a defense and as a team. I think we’re in good shape. It’s no time to lose your mind about it or freak out as a team. We just need to refocus, find the things we need to fix and make that happen.”
Linebacker Jameel McClain also is displeased with the unit’s performance, but has hope that it can improve.
“Of course I am confident that we can bounce back. These guys put in the time; we all put in the time,” he told reporters. “We all love this game, and we all love each other and respect the organization and respect the coaches. Can we bounce back? Of course we can. We definitely can bounce back.”
The return of Terrell Suggs provided the team with a bit of a lift heading into the bye week, even if the result of his first game back was an ugly loss.
With the team’s spiritual leader, Ray Lewis, likely done for the year, having the team’s most intimidating defensive player back in action has to help.
McClain was amazed to see Suggs come back so quickly, and believes the dedication of Suggs and other ailing players could prove inspiring.
“That man is going through what he is going through. Ed Reed is going through what he is going through. We have a lot of people banged up. We have a lot of people down,” McClain told reporters. “All of that makes you fight more. It’s even more of a reason why we need to be on the same page and not let these small miscues hold us back from being great.”