Ray Lewis: Ravens Will Struggle Without Star LB in Lineup

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Ray Lewis: Ravens Will Struggle Without Star LB in Lineup
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The Baltimore Ravens may be 5-1, but their trademark hard-nosed defense will continue to struggle without future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis.

Late in Sunday's game against the Cowboys, a seemingly routine tackle of Dallas running back Phillip Tanner turned out to be something far graver than the Ravens and Lewis could have ever anticipated.

An injury this serious is likely to keep Lewis out for the remainder of the 2012 season. At 37 years old and in the midst of his 17th season, Lewis has still managed to lead the team with 57 combined tackles. This may be a sour end to what has been an illustrious career, though.

It hasn't been a great year for the Ravens' defense as it is, and Lewis has looked a step slow at times.

The Ravens were in the bottom third in the league in terms of yardage allowed against both the run and the pass entering the Dallas game. They were then torched for 481 yards—254 through the air and 227 on the ground.

A look at the play that likely ended Ray Lewis' season.

It has been the ultimate bend-but-don't-break routine this season, as the team allowed under 20 points per game coming into Week 6. But the Ravens were finally broken by an explosive Cowboys offense.

Lardarius Webb is an emerging star at cornerback and will be sorely missed. Baltimore could have also used pressure packages and Lewis' ability to get the defense into the proper positions to succeed.

Without his leadership in the heart of the Ravens' 3-4 defense, that will be substantially more difficult.

Lewis will still be an imminent locker room staple, but he won't be able to take the field with his teammates. Thus, the development of the linebacker corps will be slowed, and the defense won't be able to make as many proper adjustments pre-snap.

The lack of Lewis will also affect the offense, orchestrated by quarterback Joe Flacco.

Without Lewis as the unquestioned emotional leader, it will be up to Flacco to lead by example and continue what has been a career season for the sixth-year QB.

Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has been content to put the game in Flacco's hands more often than superstar running back Ray Rice. That strategy should continue to shift towards more dependence on the run.

The Ravens will have to eat up more clock and keep their shorthanded defense off the field as much as possible. Continuing to put the ball in the air so frequently doesn't give Baltimore the best chance to succeed.

Overcoming adversity has been a defining characteristic of this team all season. Be it injuries, deficits or the unfortunate passing of wide receiver Torrey Smith's brother, they have found a way to pull through.

A trip to Houston is next up, and the Ravens will have to dig deep once again to avoid losing momentum in their promising 2012 season. Without Lewis there to be that typical spark, it will definitely be a struggle.

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