4 Baltimore Ravens Who Must Step Up on Defense

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistOctober 24, 2012

4 Baltimore Ravens Who Must Step Up on Defense

0 of 4

    Injuries in any sport demand backups to enter into the spotlight and step up their game while key players take over leadership roles.

    Well, the Baltimore Ravens have a couple spots to fill.

    Does that sentence win understatement of the year?

    Ray Lewis began his 17th season in the NFL by earning his 2,000th career tackle against the Cincinnati Bengals.

    But a month and a half later, Lewis' season turned sour. The All-Pro linebacker tore his right triceps against the Dallas Cowboys and may be out for the remainder of the 2012 season.

    As if that wasn't bad enough, cornerback Lardarius Webb tore his ACL and will be sidelined for about nine months, in the same game.

    It won't be easy to overcome those losses, but Baltimore sits at a solid 5-2 heading into the bye week in a relatively weak AFC.

    Here are four Ravens players that must step up in the absence of Lewis and Webb.

FS Ed Reed

1 of 4

    It's hard to ask Ed Reed—one who has helped carry the defense for the last 10 seasons—to step up.

    Well, typically, two of a team's best players aren't out for the year by Week 7 either.

    Surprisingly enough, the 34-year-old safety is on track to have his best statistical season since 2006.

    The University of Miami product has been a force on the field throughout his career. However, Reed may have to deal with more receivers getting an extra step with Webb out of commission at one corner.

    Time after time Reed has stepped up to challenges and he certainly has a big one in front of him.

CB Jimmy Smith

2 of 4

    Jimmy Smith has been thrust into the starting lineup in his second year in the NFL with Webb's injury.

    The bright side for 27th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft is that the Ravens' schedule isn't loaded with the Calvin Johnson's of the league.

    These games aren't against teams loaded with scrubs by any means, though. The Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders have a plethora of speed on the outside that will test Smith and the rest of Baltimore's secondary.

    With upcoming games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants, Smith and Cary Williams will be called upon to deny the best of the opposition.

LB Terrell Suggs

3 of 4

    Terrell Suggs was literally a game-time decision against the Houston Texans.

    NFL.com's Ian Rapoport asked Suggs prior to the game if he would be on the field to which the linebacker from "Ball So Hard University" shrugged.

    From a torn right Achilles tendon and a shrug to being on the field for 44 snaps—over 50 percent of Houston's plays—in his first game back, Suggs impressed his coach according to Matt Vensel of the Baltimore Sun.

    Suggs' return is important as opposing teams know he is a vocal presence, emotional leader and will have the Ravens' defense focused.

    As his conditioning improves, he can return to his 2011 NFL Defensive Player of the Year form—and Baltimore definitely needs it.

LB Dannell Ellerbe

4 of 4

    Suggs' transition back to a full-time role will be easier if Dannell Ellerbe continues to play like he did against the Texans.

    After three solo tackles in the Ravens' two previous games, the linebacker from the University of Georgia tallied an impressive 12 tackles—nine solo—on Sunday afternoon.

    That said, I am in no way declaring Ellerbe a replacement comparable to Lewis. If he keeps getting to the ball that many times, Ellerbe can thrive in a group with Suggs, Courtney Upshaw and Jameel McClain.