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Ozzie Newsome Identifies Top Needs

Posted Feb 8, 2013

The Ravens need to strengthen the middle of their defense with the departure of Ray Lewis.


The Super Bowl XLVII victory is less than a week old, but the Ravens are already looking at how they can improve their roster for the 2013 season.

General Manager Ozzie Newsome didn’t hesitate when asked Thursday about the team’s biggest needs heading into the offseason.

“The middle of the defense,” he said. “We think we have to get better at defensive tackle. We know that one linebacker is retiring and another one is a free agent. We have a safety that is a free agent, and some young guys that have yet to step up. So, we would say the middle of the defense is probably the one area that we will concentrate on.”

The Ravens could potentially lose both of their starting inside linebackers, as Ray Lewis is retiring and Dannell Ellerbe is a free agent. Jameel McClain started at inside linebacker for the first half of the season, but he ended the year on injured reserve and has to work his way back from a spinal cord contusion.

Retaining Ellerbe would help maintain some consistency in the middle of the defense, especially with the uncertainty around him.

Up front, Newsome hopes the Ravens can improve on the middle of the line. Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata was a Pro Bowler for the fourth straight season, but he was banged up for much of the year and unable to play up to his full potential for parts of the season. Beside him, nose tackles Terrence Cody and Ma’ake Kemoeatu struggled as run stuffers at times and the group was an uncharacteristic 20th in the league at against the run. 

In the secondary, veteran Ed Reed is a free agent and it’s unknown whether he will be back in Baltimore. The Ravens have made it clear that they hope to keep him, but if he signs somewhere else, then the next safeties to fill his spot that are currently on the roster would be Omar Brown and Christian Thompson.

While the Ravens have to shore up the middle of the defense, Newsome pointed to their players on the edges as a strength.

“We realize that pass rushers and guys that can cover, we felt pretty good about that,” he said. “We still would need an elite pass rusher to match the guys that we have. But when we talked through it, we felt very good about it. We have guys out on the edges that can cover, and cover with the best of them. We have guys that can set the edge and have some potential to rush the passer.”

On the opposite side of the ball, the Ravens came on strong at the end of the season and were the best offensive team in the postseason. Newsome didn’t point to a specific area that he would like to see improved on offense.

“Offensively, we will not turn down a good player if that player is available for us on the offensive side of the ball,” Newsome said.

“We just won’t do it, because you can never have enough depth. We got to a point in the last two or three weeks where Anthony [Allen] and Bernard Pierce were both hurt, and we didn’t know if they were going to be able to play in the game. So we continually look for quality depth, so that when we are having issues like that, we don’t have to panic or we don’t have to do something drastic.”

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