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Ravens Executing Defensive Vision

Posted Mar 29, 2013

John Harbaugh said offseason moves have been part of a steady goal to get better on defense.


The past couple months have been a roller coaster ride for Ravens fans.

There was the climb up the mountain capped by victory in Super Bowl XLVII.

But waiting on the other side, almost immediately after, was a long and scary dip. The Ravens lost nine players with starting experience from last year, including six on defense. For fans, the bottom fell out.

But Head Coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens front office don’t see it that way.

“Truthfully, it hasn’t been an ebb and flow for us here. I feel like it’s been very steady,” Harbaugh said this week.

“There are some highs and lows obviously. You hope things can get accomplished – some things do, some things don’t – but I don’t think you dwell on that too much. We have a vision for where we want to go with our team and how we want to apply our resources and build the best team we can.”

In other words, the Ravens had a plan all along.

That specifically applies on defense, where they have given their 17th-ranked unit from last year (20th against the run) a makeover that still isn’t complete. The Ravens still could fill an inside linebacker spot (or two) and further address the safety position.

Stalwart linebacker Ray Lewis retired and mate Ed Reed moved on to the Texans. It was the end of an era in a way, and the Ravens have moved on.

Harbaugh was asked whether there was a feeling that the team was ready to turn a corner, or flip the page, on defense.

“To say ‘no’ just wouldn’t be honest,” Harbaugh said. “We were the winningest defense in football last year.”

Harbaugh drew the line between winningest and best. Last year’s defense clinched Super Bowl XLVII with a goal-line stand, but the unit was hardly the best in the NFL or in line with previous units in Baltimore.

“[Y]ou’re either getting better or you’re getting worse, and we need to get better in everything we do,” Harbaugh said. “Let’s put the best defense together we possibly can, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Baltimore began by quietly adding veteran defensive lineman Chris Canty, a massive 6-foot-7, 317-pound veteran who has a knack for stuffing the run and some pass-rush ability, on a three-year contract worth a reported $8 million.

Then they inked defensive end Marcus Spears to a two-year deal, adding another player adept at run defense. They reportedly got him for $3.55 million.

Baltimore was in the market for a pass rusher after Paul Kruger, last year’s leading sack artist, left for a big payday in Cleveland. They were reportedly set to bring former Steeler James Harrison in for a visit, but when a fax snafu left Elvis Dumervil on the market, they immediately jumped.

As of Thursday, the Ravens made their latest move by signing safety Michael Huff to step into the position left by Reed. It was another cost-conscious move at a reported three years, $6 million.

The roster has turned over, and while many of the players that will be seen in Super Bowl XLVII highlight reels for years to come won’t be on the field in purple and black this fall, that’s just part of the game, Harbaugh said.

“We walked the championship together, so we will have that together, and that will bind us together,” he said. “But, like anything in life, we all go through life, things do change. You evolve and grow and move in another direction. We just have to make sure it’s a successful direction.”

And what’s the Ravens’ plan for the rest of free agency and the draft?

“We’re just going to try to max everything out,” Harbaugh said. “We’re going to try to be the best team we can be, with NFL available players, within the boundaries of the financial situation that we have. Then we’re going to try to have the best draft we possibly can, then we’ll try to coach them as well as we possibly can. Guys will work as hard as they possibly can, and we’ll be the best team we can be.

“That’s all. Just keep it simple.”

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