It was a big week for the Ravens, beating their biggest foes in the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. Both the offense and the defense did their jobs to take home the win. But the Baltimore defense especially looked fantastic. Shutting out Pittsburgh in the second half on six drives. Granted they’re without their best offensive player in Le’Veon Bell. Shutting out that offense thru two quarters is impressive nonetheless. Marlon Humphrey did a great job at keeping up with Antonio Brown holding him under 100 yards on the game. Overall, the defensive unit has been great the first four games of the season.
Thru the first four games of the 2018 season they haven’t given up a touchdown in the second half. Thru the first quarter of the season, The Ravens are first in the league in yards per play at 4.4. Second in total defense. Fourth in passing defense, allowing 193 yards a game. And fourth in rushing defense allowing 82.5 yards a game. Also, Pro Football Focus has them ranked 2nd in coverage and that has been without their starting cornerback Jimmy Smith. So, one has to ask, are they just getting warmed up? Can they be the league’s best defense?
The second half of the season will prove to be much tougher than the first. With Jimmy Smith coming back the coaching staff will have to figure out playing time for Brandon Carr, Marlon Humphrey, Tavon Young and Jimmy Smith. But, it’s not a bad problem to have. But Jimmy Smith couldn’t be coming back at a better time. Over the next three weeks the Ravens will go up against the Titans and the Saints and will need Smith’s assistance. Going up against a young receiver in Corey Davis, and then Michael Thomas the week following who is on one of the better offenses in the NFL. And is top five in virtually every receiving category thru the first quarter of the season. That game will answer a lot of questions around the league as if the Ravens are for real. If they can hold that offense at bay.
Coming into the 2018 season everybody was talking about the Vikings defense and how good they were going to be and rightfully so. Or if the Jaguars could replicate what they did in 2017. Not many football pundits and analysts outside of Raven fans expected this squad to look this good after the first quarter of the season without their top corner. A lot of people had this team going 5-11 and finishing last in the division. Imagine that? People had this team finishing behind the Browns. As of now they have already proven a lot of people wrong with their predictions. Not a whole of people had the Bengals and The Ravens competing for the division with the Steelers in ruins and the Browns on the come up.
The talk of the town going into the 2018 season was Wink Martindale and how he had possibly reshaped the defense. With him being more aggressive and keeping offensive coordinators guessing with his coverage’s and blitz packages. Something Dean Pees hadn’t been able to do for the last couple of seasons. And so far, he has lived up to those expectations and the praise players were giving him coming out of training camp for his aggressiveness. After the first four games of this season, Wink has the defense Blitzing 27.8 percent of the time which ranks ninth in the NFL. He’s made getting to the passer a priority and hopefully there is more to come.
Over the last two or three seasons, the defense has been the heart of the team. And while that still may be the case, the major difference is they actually have an offense that they can depend on to put points up and get in the endzone when their doing their jobs. The offense as we all know has struggled to move the ball with lack of skilled positions players. The team finally addressing that area of need while maintaining their strong defense could push them to the front of the division and back into the postseason.