Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 7/11/14
A realization hit defensive coordinator Dean Pees when he talked to coach John Harbaugh about the Baltimore Ravens' depth chart this offseason: Only two starters remain from the defense that helped the Ravens win the Super Bowl 17 months ago. "When you have the [roster] turnover, there’s always a little bit of time for those guys to develop," said Pees, whose only championship holdovers are Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata."But also, just like every team goes through it, you can’t keep the same guys forever." Change often leads to a transition period especially when you're dealing with the loss of two future Hall of Fame players in Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. But change was a necessity for the Ravens. For the first time in 15 years, the Ravens went consecutive seasons without having a top-10 defense. The once-feared group suddenly had become average. The Ravens needed to get younger, faster and, if their projections are correct, significantly better. A major investment in defense -- their top three draft picks in 2013 and 2014 came on that side of the ball -- has brought an infusion of talent. Four of these players (strong safety Matt Elam, nose tackle Brandon Williams, linebacker C.J. Mosley and free safety Terrence Brooks) have a shot at starting this season. The Ravens are mixing this youth with two of the best pass-rushers in the league in Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, a couple of emerging cornerbacks in Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith and a "game-wrecker" in the middle with Ngata. "The expectation for our defense is to be top-five, at the worst," Harbaugh said. "It has always been that way and always will be." Long before the Seattle Seahawks won a Super Bowl with defense, the Ravens did so in 2000. Then, from 2003 to 2011, the Ravens boasted a top-10 defense. Dominating defenses became as synonymous with Baltimore as "The Wire." That streak ended in 2012, when the Ravens defense finished 17th in yards allowed and 12th in points given up. The defense played a integral role in beating the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl, especially that final stand in the red zone, but that doesn't erase the fact that the Ravens gave up the second-most yards in team history that year. The lapses continued last season, when the Ravens ranked No. 12 on defense. If not for the offense finishing near the bottom of the league and Joe Flacco's career-worst 22 interceptions, there would've been more complaining about the defense allowing the most fourth-quarter points in team history.
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