When Ravens senior defensive assistant Steve Spagnuolo was running the New York Giants' defense six years ago, they won a Super Bowl behind a dominant front seven.
The Giants led the NFL with 53 sacks that season, including a dozen in one game to tie an NFL record, and sacked New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady five times in Super Bowl XLII.
His philosophy was built around creating uneasiness for quarterbacks in the pocket.
Now that Spagnuolo is working for the Ravens since being hired this spring, he said he's witnessed a similar aggressive mentality with a retooled defense that lost inside linebacker Ray Lewis to retirement, cut strong safety Bernard Pollard and had the following starters leave via free agency: inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, free safety Ed Reed, cornerback Cary Williams and outside linebacker Paul Kruger.
"This is as good a looking football team that I've ever seen," Spagnuolo said at the conclusion of the Ravens' offseason practices. "I'm talking about physically and stout. I'm a firm believer, both sides of the football, that you win upfront. Defensively, wow.
"I had little visions of the Giants' front that I happened to be privileged to be working with. They are good all the way around. I keep going back to the coaching, but good players and good coaches lead to success."
The Ravens finished 17th in total defense last season, allowing 350.9 yards per game, and 21st in scoring defense by surrendering 21.5 points per contest. Over the final six games, the Ravens allowed 299 yards per game to rank fourth during that span.
After observing a defense that has added veteran defensive linemen Chris Canty and Marcus Spears, free safety Michael Huff, outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil, inside linebacker Daryl Smith and drafted safety Matt Elam and inside linebacker Arthur Brown, Spagnuolo is confident in the Ravens' potential.
The Ravens will have bookend pass rushers with Dumervil and Terrell Suggs, who was hampered last season with a partially torn Achilles and a torn biceps.
The Ravens have to break in six new starters on defense, but have gotten younger and faster in the process. How it will all fit together remains to be seen, but Spagnuolo is encouraged.
"They are outstanding," Spagnuolo said. "We watched film of Baltimore Ravens' defense or offense to steal ideas all the time. A lot of times you look on another team's roster and you say, 'They have great players. That's why they are good.' It's not just great players here. It's great players and great coaches."
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