Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFL [Print without images]

Friday, November 13, 2009
Ravens' defense no longer dominant

By Ron Jaworski
ESPN.com

"Monday Night Football" analyst Ron Jaworski breaks down the matchup between the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns:

So far this season, both the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns have been very disappointing. Right now, Cleveland is just a bad football team, but the Ravens are 4-4 and I think they are a talented team. They started the season 3-0 but have lost four out of their past five games. The surprising thing to me about the Ravens is that they have not been that good on defense, which had been their calling card for years.

Their secondary was pretty good early, although it has been struggling of late. Earlier in the season, I was seeing a lot of man-to-man and pressure concepts on defense, but now I'm seeing more of a zone, bend-but-don't-break style. The Ravens seem to have had some kind of epiphany on defense. They might miss Rex Ryan's personality and all that, but coordinators don't play. They're still an aggressive team, but Terrell Suggs is not making those big-impact plays and Ray Lewis, in his 14th year and banged up a little, can be exploited in pass coverage.

Pass defense is a combination of coverage and rush. The Ravens are not getting that quick pressure they've gotten in the past. They'll probably get it this week, though, because the Browns' offensive line, except for Joe Thomas, is struggling. I've even seen Eric Steinbach get blown up, and that usually doesn't happen.

The Ravens have underachieved. They have talent and got out of the gate fast. But a once-dominant defense is not anymore. Still, I think their players are good enough to run off eight straight. QB Joe Flacco has not progressed as expected, and I think they have put a big burden on him. They have fallen in love with his arm and have tried too hard to get big plays. They need to get back to their foundation of good defense and a steady balance of run and pass on offense.