Do Ravens still have big-play defense?

Do Ravens still have big-play defense?
July 5, 2013, 12:30 pm
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Corey Graham is happy to be a Raven and Ravens are happy to have him

Forcing turnovers will be a point of emphasis for the Ravens’ defense during training camp.

Do the Ravens still have a turnover-creating defense? Not so much the past few seasons.

The takeaway number for the Ravens’ defense has steadily declined the past five seasons, from 34 takeaways in 2008, to 32 in 2009; 27 in 2010; 26 in 2011; to 25 in 2012. Losing last year’s two starting safeties further clouds how the Ravens will create more turnovers in 2013.

Ed Reed’s ability to read quarterbacks and to make game-changing interceptions is legendary. Bernard Pollard was the Ravens’ leading tackler last season and their most ferocious hitter. Although Reed (Texans) and Pollard (Titans) have departed, the Ravens believe this year’s defense will be faster overall, and more proficient at getting to the quarterback. The hope is that linebacker Terrell Suggs returns to top form, teaming with Elvis Dumervil to give the Ravens one of the NFL’s best pass-rushing tandems. If the Ravens put more pressure on quarterbacks, the opportunities for the defense to force turnovers should increase.

Fortunately for the Ravens, their offense has been good at avoiding turnovers. Over the past five seasons, Joe Flacco has never thrown more than 12 interceptions, and Ray Rice has never lost more than two fumbles.

Takeaway vs. giveaway ratio is usually one of the NFL’s most important stats. The Ravens have been on the plus side consistently. The four AFC teams that led takeaway-giveaway ratio all made the playoffs last season – the Patriots (+25), the Texans (+12), the Ravens (+9), and the Bengals (+4).

An offense that avoids mistakes, coupled with a defense that creates them, is a winning combination. The Ravens feel good about their ability to avoid turnovers. But they would like to see their defense create a few more.