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Eisenberg: League Drafts Offense, Ravens Draft Defense


During the Ravens' disappointing 2013 season, it was their offense, not their defense that appeared to need the most work. Their offense ranked near the bottom of the league in several key statistics.

But it is their defense that has gotten the most attention in the 2014 NFL Draft.

After taking Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley in the first round Thursday night, the Ravens took Florida State defensive lineman Timmy Jernigan in the second round Friday night, then took Florida State safety Terrence Brooks with their first third-round pick.

They finally took an offensive player late Friday night when they selected Crockett Gillmore, a tight end from Colorado State, with their second third-round pick.

Is it a mistake to go so heavily on defense? Well, the high rounds have come and gone without the Ravens filling one of their biggest needs, a starting-caliber right tackle. I'm sure they drew up scenarios in which they selected one, possibly as high as in the first round, but the draft is an unpredictable creature and it didn't happen.

Asked Friday night about not getting a lineman with a high pick, Ravens Assistant GM Eric DeCosta said, "We feel like we got some good ones last year," referring to tackle Rick Wagner and center Ryan Jensen. That sounds like they're standing pat, and my best guess is they'll look to add a veteran free agent down the line, someone like Eric Winston.

As for strictly taking defensive players with their top picks, if it feels familiar, the Ravens did exactly the same thing a year ago. In fact, they took players at the same positions that Mosley, Jernigan and Brooks play (specifically safety Matt Elam in the first round, linebacker Arthur Brown in the second round and defensive lineman Brandon Williams in the third round). If you add it up, they've taken six defensive players and one offensive player in the top three rounds over the past two years.

Welcome to Baltimore, Gary Kubiak.

I'm sure Kubiak, the Ravens' new offensive coordinator, wanted to add some puzzle pieces, but when asked about the defensive overload Friday night, Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome mostly just chuckled. His draft board was heavily stacked with offensive players, he said, yet he ended up taking defensive guys because that's how his draft board broke.

He didn't seem upset about it, and the reality is the Ravens have already invested heavily in their offense since the end of last season, retaining tackle Eugene Monroe, tight end Dennis Pitta and receiver Jacoby Jones, trading for center Jeremy Zuttah and signing receiver Steve Smith and tight end Owen Daniels.

If they couldn't also add new blood with a high draft pick, well, DeCosta didn't blink when asked about it.

"We're going to take the best player available," he said, repeating a familiar mantra. "If that's an offensive player, great, but if he's a defensive player, we're going to take that, too."

In other words: they're not paying as much attention to that as you think.

Meanwhile, they added talent and depth right up the spine of their defense.

With Jernigan, they addressed their biggest under-the-radar question: who replaces Arthur Jones? Granted, it's not clear Jernigan will start right away. He's just 21, having left college a year earlier. But the Ravens obviously hope to see him in the heart of their defensive line rotation, led by Haloti Ngata and Chris Canty.

Jernigan could be a steal; he was projected as a certainty to go in the first round until his stock slipped when he was flagged for turning in a diluted drug test at the combine in March. Speaking to the Baltimore media Friday night, he explained that the diluted sample was the result of a hydration issue, and he is burning to prove himself after falling out of the first round.

Newsome said the Ravens' scouts have talked to plenty of people around Jernigan and they were more than comfortable with taking him, regardless of the recent incident.

As for the selection of Brooks, he fits the profile Newsome was looking for in a safety, a fast center-fielder type. A starting job is there for the taking.

"Everyone else is drafting offensive players and we're drafting defensive players," Newsome said. "We're being contrary."

Not intentionally, it seems. And certainly not unhappily.

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