Better, worse or the same? Ravens defense overhauls front seven

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens continued their tradition of fielding stingy defenses last season, finishing in the top 10 in fewest points allowed for the fourth straight year.

But the last time anyone saw the Ravens’ defense was during the shocking divisional-round loss to the Tennessee Titans in which Baltimore got run over by running back Derrick Henry. General manager Eric DeCosta’s main focus this offseason was revamping the Ravens’ front seven and bolstering the run defense.

So, as the Ravens welcome plenty of new faces, are they better, worse or the same than the defense that got sideswiped in the playoffs? After answering a similar question about the offense on Friday, here’s a position-by-position breakdown for the defense.

(To see where more teams are better, worse or the same, click here.)

Defensive line

Additions: DE Calais Campbell (acquired from Jaguars), DT Derek Wolfe (Broncos), DT Justin Madubuike (third-round draft pick), DT Broderick Washington Jr. (fifth round), DE John Daka (undrafted rookie).

Losses: DT Michael Pierce (Vikings), DE Chris Wormley (traded to Steelers), DT Domata Peko (unsigned).

Returners: NT Brandon Williams, NT Daylon Mack, DE Jihad Ward, DT Justin Ellis, DT Patrick Ricard.

Better, worse or the same? Better.

The Ravens’ biggest offseason move was trading for Campbell, a five-time Pro Bowl defender who fills a long-standing void on the line. Defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale called Campbell the best 3-4 defensive end in the NFL. There was a hiccup when the deal with free-agent Michael Brockers fell through over medical concerns, but Baltimore recovered nicely by adding Wolfe, whose high motor fits this defense’s personality.

Campbell and Wolfe should significantly improve Baltimore’s pass rush on the interior, which was a major weakness. Baltimore’s defensive linemen totaled four sacks in 2019, the fewest by any team. Williams shifts to nose tackle.

“I just think that we’re better up front,” Martindale said. “It’s going to be fun to watch. I just can’t wait to get together.”

Inside linebackers

Additions: Patrick Queen (first round), Malik Harrison (third round).

Losses: Patrick Onwuasor (Jets), Josh Bynes (Bengals).

Returners: L.J. Fort, Otaro Alaka, Chris Board.

Better, worse or the same? Better.

With no offseason practices, it might not look like the Ravens are better on the inside if they start two rookies right away. But there’s no argument that the ceilings of Queen, the No. 28 overall pick of this year’s draft, and Harrison, a third-rounder, are significantly higher than last season’s patchwork that included Onwuasor, Bynes and Fort.

The hope is Queen and Harrison can help fix the run defense. The Ravens allowed a franchise-worst 4.4 yards per carry in the regular season before giving up 217 yards rushing to the Titans in the playoffs.

Outside linebackers

Additions: None.

Losses: None.

Returners: Matthew Judon (franchise tag), Jaylon Ferguson, Tyus Bowser, Pernell McPhee.

Better, worse or the same? Same.

The Ravens kept this position intact, although that could change next season. The only outside linebacker signed beyond 2020 is Ferguson, a third-round pick from last season. Judon and Bowser are coming off seasons in which each recorded career-high sacks, but it’s still surprising Baltimore didn’t bring in another edge rusher. The Ravens recorded a league-low nine sacks from their four-man rush in 2019.


Additions: None.

Losses: Brandon Carr (unsigned).

Returners: Marcus Peters, Marlon Humphrey, Tavon Young, Jimmy Smith, Anthony Averett, Iman Marshall.

Better, worse or the same? Better.

The Ravens didn’t add a free agent or draft pick to one of the top cornerback groups in the league. So, how can it be better? Nickelback Tavon Young, who missed all of last season with a neck injury, is back and gives the Ravens another playmaker in the secondary.

In 2018, Young was one of four players in the league to score multiple defensive touchdowns, recording scores off two fumble recoveries. Baltimore will miss the professionalism and dependability of Carr, but Smith will take over his role as the experienced backup at cornerback and safety.


Additions: Geno Stone (seventh round).

Losses: Tony Jefferson (unsigned).

Returners: Earl Thomas III, Chuck Clark, Anthony Levine, DeShon Elliott, Jordan Richards.

Better, worse or the same? Same.

The emergence of Clark led to the release of Jefferson, the team’s highest-paid free-agent signing three years ago. Whether this group is ultimately better or worse really hinges on Thomas, who had an uneven first season in Baltimore. Depth will be improved if Elliott can stay on the field. He has missed 26 of 32 games because of injuries. Stone can make an immediate impact on special teams.

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