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With this draft, Ravens are getting back to their hard-hitting, defensive ways

If anyone is truly surprised that the Ravens put a huge emphasis on defense in this year's NFL draft, it would be wise to remember the famous adage about the fate of those who ignore history.

The Ravens used their first four picks to fortify key defensive positions and make sure they would not suffer an ending in 2017 like the one that turned a top-ranked defense in early December into a disaster.

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Ozzie Newsome and John Harbaugh can talk all they want about the best player on the board, but the nature of this draft was dictated by the way the Ravens' depleted defense was torched during the final month of last season.

Think about that and then think what might happen if the Ravens were to come up two cornerbacks and an effective pass rush short of the playoffs again next December. Owner Steve Bisciotti has proven to be patient, but testing that patience after two straight disappointing seasons is something everybody in the Ravens' draft war room is determined to avoid.

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The Ravens lost Jimmy Smith to a season-ending injury in Week 12 and spent two of their biggest games of the season watching Patriots and Steelers highlights. But the cornerback shortage wasn't a one-year issue and the first-round selection of Alabama's Marlon Humphrey – or one of the other top corners in the draft – was a no-brainer.

Defensive coordinator Dean Pees took a minute off from beaming about all of his new-found talent on Friday night to put the team's three-year struggle to keep enough healthy and effective corners on the field in perspective.

"A guy was actually playing for me, and I could not remember his first name off the top of my head, because we just signed him three days ago,'' Pees said. "That ain't fun."

There is also a broader theme here. No one has to tell any good Ravens fan about the long history of success the franchise has had building great defensive teams, but the 2013 Super Bowl victory seemed to represent a philosophical turning point for the franchise.

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Ray Lewis retired and quarterback Joe Flacco became the face of the organization, signing a record contract to prove it. Since then, the focus has been largely on building a great supporting cast around him, to very mixed results.

There obviously was a case to be made at the start of the draft for choosing a wide receiver with one of the early picks, and Newsome insisted that there were offensive players the Ravens would have taken if they had not come off the board before those opportunities could present themselves.

Newsome also said that the consensus was so strong to pick edge rusher Tim Williams with the team's fourth pick that offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg came up to him and told him that he absolutely had to take the troubled Alabama star, who was far higher on the Ravens draft board than any other remaining player.

Perhaps even Mornhinweg realizes what the Ravens coordinators of the past found out when the Ravens were the preeminent defensive team in the NFL. It doesn't take a herculean offensive effort to win when the opposition can't score.

Flacco didn't seem too worried about the state of the offense when he met with the media during the first week of the offseason conditioning program. He was asked then whether he thought the team needed to add another wideout.

"No, I do not," Flacco said. "I think we have a lot of young, talented guys – guys that are ready to make a name for themselves and are going to work really hard this offseason to get that done."

Going into the final day of the draft, it seemed like the front office was taking him literally.

The Ravens finally moved to address the offense with their picks in the fourth and fifth rounds, taking San Diego State guard Nico Siragusa (no relation to Tony) and Texas A&M guard Jermaine Eluemunor. Siragusa was a USA Today first team All-American and a four-year starter who was one of the guys who cleared the way for new FBS career rushing leader Donnel Pumphrey.

Those are old-school picks, too, but the biggest takeaway from this draft will be the youth and depth of the Ravens defense, particularly a front seven talent pool that features just two players who are more than 28 years old (Terrell Suggs and Albert McClellan).

If there is a new defensive dynasty in the works, that's where it will start.

Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog and follow him @Schmuckstop on Twitter.

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