The Ravens have always been known as a defensive juggernaut.
With Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata as perennial Pro Bowlers, the defense has long been the backbone of the organization. But the tide seems to be changing, as Joe Flacco and Ray Rice are entering the prime of their careers and the offense looks poised to take a big step this season.
So how does the team's defensive leader feel about the transition?
"At the end of the day, that's why we are called a team," Lewis said after Wednesday's practice. "It don't matter who takes the lead, who does whatever. We go into games and we win games together. That's the bottom line emphasis."
Much of the attention during the preseason has been directed toward the offense.
Rice signed a long-term deal before training camp and the Ravens are currently negotiating with Flacco to sign him to a contract extension. The offense has introduced a quick-strike, no-huddle approach during the preseason and Flacco has said on numerous occasions that he could see the offense being one of the top five in the NFL.
The offense is taking center stage, and Lewis looks forward to seeing what the group can accomplish this season.
"For us offensively, what we're doing – the tempo and things we're creating – are we excited about it?" Lewis asked. "Absolutely."
As the offense continues to develop, Lewis stressed that expectations for the defense won't change at all.
"Me, Ed and the guys on our side, we're going to do what we're supposed to do – what we've always done," he said. "That's not going to change to for us."
The big question for the defense this year is whether they will be able to withstand the losses of key players and maintain the standard they have put in place over the last decade. Suggs is out for an unknown amount of time with an Achilles tendon injury, plus the Ravens have to replace departed starters Jarret Johnson and Cory Redding who both left in free agency.
Whether the Ravens can replace those players and live up to the standard of previous years, is a question that Lewis said can only be answered at the end of the season.
"The only way you can ever figure that out is at the end of the year," Lewis said. "Year after year we always try to compare this defense to that defense. It's just impossible to do. The thing is you have to play the whole season out. Once you play the whole season out, you'll see where it goes from there."