Ravens defense hopes to keep knack for takeaways

Ravens defense hopes to keep knack for takeaways
May 27, 2013, 1:15 pm
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Dumervil happy to be with the Super Bowl champs

Baltimore Ravens free safety Ed Reed (20) recovers a Kansas City Chiefs fumble and runs it out of the end zone in the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. The Ravens won 9-6.

(Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)

Creating turnovers was a hallmark of the Ravens’ defense last season.

Instead of being dominant, the Ravens were opportunistic. They forced at least two turnovers in all four of their playoff victories. They intercepted Peyton Manning in overtime to get past the Broncos. Ed Reed made his final interception for the Ravens during the Super Bowl.

For the Ravens to continue making big plays at crucial moments, different players will have to step forward. Reed is gone. So is hard-hitting safety Bernard Pollard.  Game-changing plays will have to come from other sources, but the Ravens believe they still have the personnel to be a turnover-creating defense.

Start with Terrell Suggs, whose production dropped in 2012 due to an Achilles injury that limited his mobility. The Ravens envision Suggs teaming with Elvis Dumervil to give them two dominant edge rushers. If Suggs and Dumervil put consistent pressure on quarterbacks, turnovers should follow.

Reed’s ball instincts will be difficult to replace. Newly acquired safety Michael Huff has never had more than three interceptions in a season.

However, the Ravens are looking for cornerback Lardarius Webb to return from his knee injury. Webb had five interceptions in 2011, and he was one of the NFL’s better cover corners.  A healthy Webb paired with Corey Graham at the opposite corner would make the Ravens feel pretty secure at that position, particularly if the pass rush is consistent.

The Ravens surrendered more yards than they wanted last season, but their red-zone defense and ability to create turnovers often bailed them out. Including the playoffs, the Ravens were 11-2 when forcing two or more turnovers. Defensive newcomers like Dumervil, Huff, Chris Canty, Arthur Brown, Matt Elam, and Marcus Spears will be expected to continue that trend. The Ravens don’t want their knack for taking the football to be taken away.