Nobody is saying that Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley, Eric Weddle, and Za'Darius Smith won't be missed. However, the Ravens' defense is embracing change, opening training camp Thursday without some familiar faces from past seasons.
"It sunk in, Sizz is gone, Weddle's gone, C.J.'s gone, there's a bunch of key pieces missing," safety Tony Jefferson said Wednesday as veterans reported to training camp. "Like always, there's people who stepped up. We still have great athletes. We have people who can fill in those roles and do great things."
Jefferson is one player who may take a more active role in 2019 as a defensive leader. Suggs, who signed with the Arizona Cardinals during free agency, was always one of the loudest voices during training camp. Even as Suggs got older, his experience and leadership remained valuable.
Defensive tackle Brandon Williams says the Ravens will move on successfully, but he admits training camp may have a different feel.
"Losing a guy like Sizz is irreplaceable," Williams said. "He's an X-factor. He's instinctive. He knows the game in and out, and you can't really replace a player like that. You can just plug a guy in, tell him to do his job and do it great. Don't go out there and be Suggs. Don't go out there and try to be anybody else. Just to your job the way the coaches teach it, and we'll be successful."
Jefferson liked what he saw from the defense at mandatory minicamp and believes the Ravens' defense will be quick to the football, which could result in producing more takeaways.
"We haven't all been together yet, but from what I've seen earlier in OTAs, yes it looks a little younger, faster, and motivated," Jefferson said. "Got a lot of young guys who are up to the challenge.
"I think there's a transition period anytime something new occurs. As far as when that will change, that's up to us going out and executing."
The Ravens replaced Weddle in the secondary by signing six-time Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas in free agency. Some pundits expect Thomas and Jefferson to be the NFL's top safety tandem.
What does Jefferson think when he hears that?
"Thank you," Jefferson said with a smile.
Williams Remains Strong Michael Pierce Believer
The start of training camp will be Michael Pierce's first on-field action with teammates since he reported to mandatory minicamp overweight and was not allowed to practice.
Pierce has returned for training camp significantly lighter and passed his conditioning test. Williams said Pierce looks much better, and that he expects him to be one of the team's top defensive players again.
"Was I worried? No," Williams said. "Because I know he's a professional. Sometimes it gets away from you, it's happened to be before. I'm not going to fault him for that. If he would've came in and not looked as good as he does now and passed his conditioning test, then there would have been a problem. Other than that, I love him, he's ready to go, I can't wait to step on the field with him."
Mark Ingram II Feels Great Heading Into First Ravens Camp
After eight seasons with the New Orleans Saints, running back Mark Ingram II is looking forward to a new chapter of his career with the Ravens.
Ingram rushed for more than 1,000 yards in both 2016 and 2017 and playing in a two-back system last year with Alvin Kamara helped the 29-year-old Ingram avoid being overworked season.
Now he comes to Baltimore as the clear No. 1 back made better by the previous lighter workload.
"All throughout my career, I feel like I've shared the ball," Ingram said. "Even in college, I shared the ball, and sometimes, it wasn't always ideal, but I appreciate it now. Going into my ninth year, I feel great.
"I feel like I have some of my best years of football still ahead of me, so I feel great. I obviously didn't come off of any injuries the past few years. That helps as well. Health is always important."
The Ravens are deep at running back with Ingram, Gus Edwards, rookie Justice Hill and Kenneth Dixon leading the way. The workload may be shared among three or four backs, but Ingram is eying up another 1,000-yard season.
"Everybody wants to be All-Pro, a Pro Bowler, rush for 1,000-plus, those are all things that you shoot for," Ingram said. "But the main thing is just being the best player I can be, the best teammate I can be, the best person I can be in this building to help us build a championship team."