Draft addresses aging front seven

Kindle, Cody infuse youth into defense

April 25, 2010|By Jamison Hensley | Baltimore Sun reporter

While many wonder why the Ravens failed to add a cornerback in the NFL Draft, the team did address a timely need on defense.

The Ravens infused some youth into their front seven.

The second-round additions of outside linebacker Sergio Kindle and nose tackle Terrence Cody should help the Ravens' aging groups on the defensive line and at linebacker. Over the past three drafts, the Ravens had 11 picks in the first three rounds and used just two of them on the front seven. Both of those selections (defensive end Paul Kruger and inside linebacker Tavares Gooden) have yet to make an impact.

"Getting younger on defense is something that we wanted to do," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "To be able to rush the passer, that's what Sergio can do for us. To be able to stop the run, that's what Cody can do."

That dry spell for the front seven in the draft has steadily allowed that part of the defense to get older. In 2006, the average age for the starting defensive line and linebackers was 26.8. Now, it's 28.7 years old, which could explain some lapses in what remains one of the best defenses in the league.

The Ravens' pass rush produced 32 sacks last season, which is tied for the second fewest in team history. The run defense allowed three 100-yard rushers (Cincinnati's Cedric Benson twice and Minnesota's Adrian Peterson) last season after not allowing one in 39 straight games.

Kindle and Cody should boost both of those areas.

"No great player is disappointed when you bring another great player in to play with them because they realize great players make each other better," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "That's going to just take pressure off guys. A lot of guys will rotate in and just make us a better defense."

A look at the Ravens' position-by-position after the draft:

Quarterback: Joe Flacco enters his third season as the starting quarterback, compiling a 23-14 record (including playoffs). Troy Smith and John Beck are expected to compete for the backup job.

Running back: The Ravens are stocked at this position. Ray Rice had a breakthrough season in his first year as the starter. Willis McGahee remains the backup after not getting traded during the draft. Le'Ron McClain is a two-time Pro Bowl fullback. Jalen Parmele showed promise as the No. 3 running back last season. There's talk about moving backup tight end Edgar Jones to fullback.

Wide receiver: This could be the deepest wide receiver group in team history with Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason, Donte' Stallworth and Mark Clayton. David Reed, a fifth-round pick, could find his niche as a slot receiver and returner. Demetrius Williams, Marcus Smith and Justin Harper will have to fight to make a team that probably won't carry more than five wide receivers.

Tight end: Todd Heap may have played more snaps than any other NFL tight end last season. That won't be the case this year. The Ravens drafted backups in the third (Ed Dickson) and fourth (Dennis Pitta) rounds, hoping one can become the heir apparent to Heap. Using two picks on tight ends was deemed a necessity after Davon Drew, a fifth-round pick in 2009, struggled to develop as a rookie.

Offensive line: This group remains intact as all nine linemen return. The biggest decision is whether the Ravens will go another season with Oniel Cousins as their No. 3 offensive tackle. The Ravens drafted raw but sizable offensive tackle-guard Ramon Harewood in the sixth round with their last pick.

Defensive line: The Ravens signed Cory Redding in free agency to replace Dwan Edwards. Cody, the second of two second-round picks, could compete with Kelly Gregg at nose tackle. Paul Kruger has bulked up to 270 pounds and is looking to play defensive end this season, according to the team. The Ravens also drafted defensive tackle Arthur Jones in the fifth round to provide depth.

Linebacker: Kindle, the first of two second-round picks, will begin as the backup to Jarret Johnson. If Kindle forces the Ravens to play him more, the Ravens could move Johnson to the inside at times. It'll be interesting to see how Dannell Ellerbe improves after being the biggest surprise on the defense last season.

Cornerback: The Ravens have just two healthy experienced cornerbacks (Domonique Foxworth and Chris Carr). Fabian Washington and Lardarius Webb are coming off season-ending knee surgeries. Cary Williams is a developmental player, and Georgia's Prince Miller and Weber State's Josh Morris have reportedly agreed to join the Ravens as undrafted rookies.

Safety: Harbaugh feels he got affirmation from Ed Reed that the Pro Bowl safety is returning after a recent talk. Haruki Nakamura is on schedule to come back after breaking his ankle last season, according to Harbaugh. Dawan Landry and Tom Zbikowski also return.

Special teams: The biggest question is at kicker, where the Ravens are expected to add competition for Billy Cundiff. The Ravens won't sign an undrafted rookie, which means they will bring in a veteran free agent (Shayne Graham tops the list).

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.