There's no question that the retirement of Ray Lewis leaves a hole in the Ravens' defense in more ways than one.
Lewis hasn't been the same type of player physically in recent years that he was earlier in his career. That's only natural. But what he did still know was how to put everyone in the right positions in defense and how to read an offense. That's a devastating combination.
The fact that the Ravens went 4-0 in the post-season after he came back isn't surprising. Yes, he had trouble with pass coverage during the playoffs, but since he quarterbacked the defense so well, it helped them be in position to make the necessary plays and cut down on giving up the big plays that hurt them throughout the season.
It's kind of ironic that his career ended with the memorable goal-line stand in the Super Bowl. The Ravens need someone who can step in there and help John Harbaugh and Ozzie Newsome field a tough defense. Who can be the leader?
Are they confident in someone like Dannell Ellerbe, who really stepped up this season? The Ravens need to make a decision about who is going to run the defense.
That decision could be even more important if Ed Reed doesn't return. Those are a few of the problems that the Ravens need to figure out during the off-season.
The defense should be better next year, mainly because the Ravens have so many young players who got so much experience and playing time in good situations in 2012. This year's defense wasn't a force the way they've been in the past, but they did just enough.
Now they've got to find a new leader, and that's not always an easy task.