The All-Time Ravens Defense: 1996 to Present
Hey guys, this is the other half of my article in which I create the all-time Ravens team! The other one can be seen here:
But to recap, the offense I listed there was as follows:
QB- Joe Flacco
RB- Jamal Lewis
FB- Le'Ron McClain
TE- Shannon Sharpe
WR- Derrick Mason
WR- Jermaine Lewis
LT- Jonathan Ogden
LG- Ben Grubbs
C- Jason Brown
RG- Marshal Yanda
RT- Michael Oher
K- Matt Stover
The list continues here, and as before, the criteria remain:
1) Praise factor. Do I love the guy even today? If so, there's a good shot he's here.
2) Were they on the 2000 Super Bowl team? I have a tremendous loyalty to the guys who brought home a title.
Punter: Dave Zastudil
I know they eventually got rid of him, but there's a reason that Zastudil played even last year (for the Browns). He kicked for the organization for several years and I'll be honest... the fact that I remember the guy at all says a lot about how good I felt he was and how comfortable I was with his ability to get the job done.
Granted, the Ravens haven't had a shortage of punters the way they have kickers. While I'll take Zastudil, there are good arguments for a number of other players. And come on, I couldn't have the slide show end with a punter... so he comes first. The appetizer, if you will. ;)
Cornerback 1: Chris McAlister
Not a difficult decision here- McAlister was one of the longest-tenured Ravens and is in a class of his own when it comes to team history at the cornerback position.
No one else consistently locked down a starting job with superior play the way McAlister did, and for years he could go 1-on-1 with a team's best receiver, usually winning the matchup.
I know he found his way into John Harbaugh's doghouse, but I'll tip my hat to the guy- he was a heck of a player.
Cornerback 2: Duane Starks
There are a few other candidates for this spot- hopefully Lardarius Webb can become the next one over the next couple of seasons- but Starks was one of the best No. 2 corners in the league during the 2000 championship season, arguably even interchangeable with McAlister.
On top of that, he had a knack for coming up with big interceptions, including a pick-6 that opened the three straight plays resulting in touchdowns during the Super Bowl.
I would listen to any argument for this spot, but this man helped bring home the Lombardi Trophy, and that is a pretty big tiebreaker in my head.
Safety 1a: Ed Reed
Ed Reed is a pretty obvious choice to make the all-time team, and I'm pretty sure I'd want to insult the football intelligence of anyone who argued otherwise.
Mike Preston seems to be down on Reed, calling him a "WAG," short for "wild-ass guesser" (the other meaning of the term is not to be discussed here, although it is easy to find, ah, DISCUSSIONS about that here on BR). There is some truth to what Preston says; Reed does his fair share of freelancing. But when he gambles, he often gambles correctly, and has a tendency to make big plays.
A neck injury has slowed him in recent years, but the Ravens secondary is tremendously elevated just from the presence of this man nonetheless. But why is he 1a, you ask?
Safety 1b: Rod Woodson
Because this guy, Rod Woodson, was a pretty good safety, too. He ranks as one of the top free agent acquisitions ever made by Ozzie Newsome and arguably completed the famous 2000 defense that ranks as one of the best in league history and brought home a Lombardi Trophy.
True, I fudged it a little bit here: Reed and Woodson are both free safeties; I chose not to include a strong safety in the group. But realistically, if you had a choice of all the safeties ever to play for the Ravens, would you find a way to put both guys on the field?
I thought so.
This is where it starts to get really interesting. On the offensive side, there is a clear conventional set which the Ravens have been running since their inception: a standard 2 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB, and 1 FB set.
As the Ravens have often lacked talent at some of those positions in the past, there tends to be clear front runners for the positions.
In the secondary, there are four starters: two corners, two safeties, and I already fudged it a little bit by putting in two free safeties.
However, in my mind those four are clearly the best secondary players in Ravens history. For the last seven spots on defense, however, life gets... complicated.
For starters, the Ravens have run both 4-3 and 3-4 defenses; so choosing personnel was made exceptionally difficult.
On top of that, the Ravens have often been LOADED with talent in the defensive front seven. As a result, there seem to be about 10 or 11 guys with very obvious claims for seven spots. I've done my best to pick the best ones... but only one is really beyond any argument.
Defensive Lineman 1: Haloti Ngata
It is my opinion that Haloti Ngata is the best defensive lineman ever to play for the Ravens. He is able to play any of the three positions along the 3-4 defensive front; furthermore, he could easily be the 1-technique in a 4-3 defensive front (and maybe even the 3-tech with his freakish talent).
Since his arrival in Baltimore the Ravens have never ranked worse than 6th in overall rush defense. That is a scary thought considering the Ravens just added Terrence Cody in this year's draft.
Defensive Lineman 2: Trevor Pryce
This will be a controversial selection, and I am fully aware of this; however... I would take Trevor Pryce on the all-time Ravens defense chiefly because of his diversity.
From the 3-4 DE he was able to notch double-digit sacks in his first year and has always had at least 6 during each year he's worn a Ravens uniform. Sacks are hard to come by for a 5-technique; such a great interior ability to push the pocket is so important to a successful pass rush for the outside guys.
One of Ozzie's best signings- not a splash name, but a guy who consistently does the dirty work and does it well.
Defensive Lineman 3: Tony Siragusa
The final defensive lineman I have selected for the All-Time Defense is Tony "Goose" Siragusa. To be fair, his partner in crime was Sam Adams, who makes a strong case to be included on this list.
But the two were fairly interchangeable, and I'll be honest- the tiebreaker here is Tony's ridiculous personality that was impossibly entertaining at all times.
Outside Linebacker 1: Peter Boulware
For a short period, about three years, Peter Boulware was one of the biggest matchup nightmares for any offensive tackle in the whole of the NFL.
He had a nose for the quarterback and was often the man standing over said QB when the play was over, especially on third down when he was allowed to line up at defensive end. When he lined up as a conventional strong side linebacker, he was one of the best in the business there, too.
His scheme diversity made him one of the more valuable members of the 2000 defense, and one of the best pass rushers in team history.
Outside Linebacker 2: Jamie Sharper
Interesting selection here, but I think Jamie Sharper is one of the most underrated playmakers in team history. From the weakside linebacker spot, Sharper was often the guy to make the big play that sealed the deal for the Ravens, doing so in both the AFC Championship against Oakland and again in the Super Bowl against the Giants.
His natural playmaking talents won him a big contract in Houston where he continued to display his uncanny knack for finding the football, leading the league in tackles. A great linebacker who I'd find a place for in any scheme.
Inside Linebacker 1: Ray Lewis
11 Pro Bowls. Two Defensive Player of the Year awards. Hall of Fame bust awaiting him if and when he hangs up his spikes. An undisputed claim as one of the top three linebackers in NFL history.
Anything else you need to know?
Inside Linebacker 2: Adalius Thomas
Sure, the man was listed as an outside linebacker, but any player who could line up on the defensive line and in the defensive secondary as well could have managed at the inside linebacker position (and he often did).
This tremendous scheme diversity makes Adalius Thomas the last man selected to this version of the All-Time Ravens team, and while he left for New England several seasons ago, he had tremendous playmaking ability and athletic talent, so much so that he caused mismatches for an offense the same way that elite skill position players create mismatches for a defense.
He was a chess piece that was completely unpredictable and the Ravens defense was much better thanks to his presence.
Thanks for reading guys... who do YOU think I missed? Questions, comments, etc. are most welcome!