A few days ago we took a look at where the Ravens offense stacked up as we pass the quarter mark of the 2013 season. Now, it’s on to the defense.
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The Ravens defense was a giant question mark at the beginning of season. Turnover, youth, leadership (or lack thereof) is just a few of the terms synonymous with the Ravens defense. Would they be able to overcome the losses of Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Bernard Pollard, and up and coming stars Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbee? I think the answer is clearly, yes.
It took just one week to discover the weak link on the defense, and it was Michael Huff, whom the Ravens acquired to take the place of Ed Reed. His clear lack of effort was noticed by many, including coach Harbaugh who has kept Huff’s playing time to an extreme minimal since that week one, seven TD explosion by Peyton Manning.
That first week against a stacked deck aside, the Ravens defense has been one of the best in the league. They would go on to keep opposing offenses out of the endzone for the next two games, allowing just 12.7 points per game over their last three. Also they allowed just 291 yards per game over their last three contests, but 510 against the Broncos in the opener. Their 12 sacks are tied for tenth most and puts them on pace for 48 on the season, 12 more than their 2012 total of 36. The defense has forced six turnovers thus far. If not for Joe Flacco’s latest 5 INT game, turnover differential would look a little better than -2.
While the Ravens total defense stands at 15th in the league, skewed ultimately by week 1, Pro Football Focus grades the Ravens overall defense a bit higher.1. Chiefs: 63.1 2. Seahawks: 51 3. Ravens: 25.7 4. Saints: 22.8 5. 49ers: 22.2
Very interesting. Remember previously that the Ravens offense graded out among a group of winless teams. Here, three of the top five defenses are 4-0. Also worth noting that the Ravens defense got a -4.6 grade for week one (-10.9 in pass coverage was brought up +6.5 in run defense from that game).
Who is the stud of this defense after four games? Suggs, Dumervil, Ngata, Canty, Webb? Wrong. PFF has graded James Ihedigbo the best player on defense, a grade of +9.4, just ahead of Dumervil (+8.4) and Suggs (+8.2). Ihedigbo is far and away the only player in the secondary to have success in pass coverage, grading out at +4.9.
Let us stick with the secondary, and look at some other stats of note. James Ihedigbo is really having a fantastic year. We may be talking Pro Bowl in the future. He has allowed just five catches for 21 yards against him. 0.15 yards per snap he plays is second best in the league to Louis Delmas (DET) who has allowed -3 yards in 177 snaps. The former undrafted free agent also ranks in the top 10 in run stop% among safeties (6.0%) and ranks second in pass rushing productivity (17.3. For a safety, above 15.0 is great). Our other safety, rookie Matt Elam, he’s holding his own. When in coverage, Elam has allowed just four catches for 52 yards. Just two yards after catch though. Elam is in these guys back pockets and bringing them down right away. Huff can stay in the doghouse as long as Coach Harbaugh wants. I only expect Elam will get better with the more reps he gets.
Cornerbacks are a different story. QBs are having great success, posting great QB ratings against them. 92.8 against Jimmy Smith, 101.1 against Lardarius Webb, and 104.0 against Corey Graham. They are 16th in the league defending the pass at 239 yards per game. Slightly worse than their 228 passing YPG allowed in 2012, and falling way off their 2011 total of 196 passing YPG allowed. Corey Graham was great defending the slot last year, holding QBs to a rating of 63.7 as the nickel. This year he is among the worst. Targeted 13 times, allowing 10 receptions, for a QB rating of 113.9 in the nickel.
Inside linebackers include Josh Bynes and newcomer Daryl Smith. Smith has been a nice addition, a suitable replacement for Ray Lewis, has a pick-six already this season. But his performance in stopping the run needs to improve. His run stop % of 3.4 is worst in the league among qualifying MLBs. He’s missed three tackles and made nine on run plays. His forte seems to be coverage, allowing .55 yards per coverage snap, (under 1.0 is good). Good for fifth best in the league. Josh Bynes allows 1.10 yards per coverage snap and posts an 8.1 run stop %. Since about 12% is good for run stop%, we’d like to see both middle line backers perform a little better in the run game. The Ravens rank 16th allowing 106.8 rush yards per game. However, they did just allow their first and only rushing TD of the season last week to Fred Jackson.
I had a feeling coming into this season that the 3-4 outside linebacking duo of Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil would be one of the top pairs in the league. So far that seems to be the case. Combined they have six sacks on the year (Suggs- 4, Dumervil-2). The pairing of Tamba Hali and Justin Houston of the Chiefs has combined for ten to lead the league. Suggs and Dumervil are the most balanced pass rushing duo, both in the top five as both are posting a 13.5 PRP (Pass rush productivity. 12.0+ is good). Terrell Suggs also tops the list of 3-4 OLBs when it comes to stopping the run. His 14.1 run stop% is best in the league.
We’ll wrap up the defense with the big fellas up front, starting with the defensive ends. Marcus Spears ranks ninth in run stop % among 3-4 DEs with an 8.3% (J.J. Watt leads with a 14.7 RS%) Chris Canty has a 7.3 RS%. When it comes to rushing the passer, Arthur Jones doesn’t quite qualify yet since he has just played 47 passing snaps. But he would rank sixth with a 10.6 PRP, thanks to two sack and six total pressures. Haloti Ngata takes all the snaps at the defensive tackle position. He’s faced some scrutiny, and this year seems to be no different. He’s faced the second most running plays in the league (96) and has a RS% of just 6.3%. His seven total pressures in the passing game pales in comparison to the Lions Ndumakong Suh, who has amassed 28 pressures. Suh leads DTs in the league in PRP at 13.4. Ngata is coming up well short at 5.1.