Ravens’ defense has potential to be among best in NFL … again

OWINGS MILLS — With the recent re-signing of outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy, the Ravens’ defense has a solid foundation and could be in position to have another stellar season.

The veteran Van Noy rejoins a roster that includes Pro Bowlers Justin Madubuike, Roquan Smith and Kyle Hamilton.  Marlon Humphrey is among the NFL’s best cornerbacks when he’s healthy, and Brandon Stephens is developing into a top defensive back.

The Ravens have questions at outside linebacker. But they have confidence that Odafe Oweh can make a major impact, and that third-year David Ojabo is ready to bounce back from two injury-plagued seasons and become an effective pass rusher.

Several young linebackers –Trenton Simpson, Tavius Robinson and Malik Hamm — have flashed their potential and will get more opportunities next season.

The defense will be led by new defensive coordinator Zachary Orr, who was promoted from linebackers coach after Mike Macdonald was hired as head coach for the Seattle Seahawks.

“We feel really good about where the defense stands overall,” Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said. “We’re excited to see Zach orchestrate this whole thing.”

This past year, the Ravens became the first team in league history to finish a season ranking No. 1 in each of the following categories: points allowed (16.5 points per game), sacks (60), and takeaways (31, tied with the New York Giants).

Orr does not plan to deviate from what made the Ravens successful, but he plans to augment those game plans.

“We definitely want to build on that,” he said. “That’s a scheme that we helped build here for years. We’re always looking to get better. I think that’s why you’ve seen great defenses here in the past. That’s what we’ve got to continue.”

DeCosta will try to add playmakers with nine selections in this year’s draft because the team needs depth at almost every position on the defense.

Several draft boards have the team selecting a cornerback with the 30th overall pick and players to watch include Mike Sainristil (Michigan), Cooper DeJean (Iowa), Kool-Aid McKinstry (Alabama), Ennis Rakestraw Jr. (Missouri) and Nate Wiggins (Clemson).

The Ravens could select an edge rusher in the early rounds and some players to watch include Darius Robinson (Missouri), Laiatu Latu (UCLA) and Chop Robinson (Penn State).

The starting lineup might include a mix of veteran players and rookies next season.

“Fundamentally, we are always going to be focused on the draft,” DeCosta said. “Now, in the last couple of years, we have traded draft picks for players, in some cases, but generally, we’re going to be a draft-centric team.”


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