Baltimore Ravens Have the Worst Run Defense in Football – Why?

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 22: Latavius Murray
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 22: Latavius Murray /

The Baltimore Ravens have the worst run defense in the NFL, something that is very out of the ordinary in the team’s history.

The Baltimore Ravens have the worst run defense in the NFL right now, which is something very out of the ordinary for a Ravens team when you look at their history.

Coming into the season, there were a lot of questions about the team’s offense – the running backs, the wide receivers, the offensive line, it was all pretty questionable. But if there’s one thing that people weren’t questioning, it’s the quality of the Baltimore Ravens defense, especially given that this team was a top-five run defense last year.

That was reinforced by the fact that the team used three of its draft picks this year on members of the front seven, using their second-round pick on linebacker Tyus Bowser, their first third-round pick on linebacker Tim Williams, and their other third-round pick on defensive tackle Chris Wormley.

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But that a dominant run defense hasn’t been the case this year. They’ve allowed 1,017 rushing yards this season, averaging 145.3 rushing yards allowed per game so far, both stats good for dead-last in the NFL.

It seems like there have been two significant problems with the Baltimore Ravens’ front seven, and that’s injuries and age. The team most-notably lost Brandon Williams – whom they just re-signed to a huge, five-year, $52.5 million contract in the offseason – for a few weeks (though even in his return, the Minnesota Vikings ran all over the Baltimore Ravens), and they lost another tackle, Brent Urban, for the year to a foot injury.

Not only that, but Tim Williams has been dealing with a thigh injury, and both linebacker Albert McClellan and Bam Bradley are out for the year with ACL injuries.

But these injuries have mostly happened to backup players, not to their stars. But age has been an issue as well. Terrell Suggs is getting older, but he’s still playing a fairly high level, and naturally, C.J. Mosley is too, but the rest of the Ravens’ front seven is very young, most of them around 25 years old, with just McClellan playing a large number of snaps last season (not counting Suggs/Mosley/Williams).

team. 26. ESPN’s Football Power Index rankings. 3-4. Previous: 22nd. Baltimore Ravens. 25

Suggs told ESPN’s Jamison Hensley that he feels partially responsible for the team’s poor defensive play. “I read we’re like 30th against the run,” he said. “In 15 years of me being there, we’ve never been that low. I think we gave up two back-to-back 100-yard rushers. For me being the veteran on the defense, I take more of a blame for that than anything, because I know how we’re supposed to play. I know how it’s supposed to look.”

Having Williams back is helpful, no doubt, but he isn’t the answer. Trading away Timmy Jernigan has obviously significantly hurt this team’s run defense, and some players, like Carl Davis and Kamalei Correa who haven’t been playing particularly well so far, need to step up. Granted, Matt Judon‘s play has been excellent, but there’s only so much one guy can do.

Another key to making this run defense better will be keeping them off the field. It hasn’t been the main reason that the run defense hasn’t been very good, but it certainly doesn’t help that the Baltimore Ravens’ offense has been so bad that the defense is frequently back on the field.

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If players like Davis and Correa are able to improve, and the team is able to keep their offense on the field and their defense off of it, then I think the run defense will improve. The team already has a top-10 pass defense, if their run defense can at least be the middle-of-the-road, then a bad offense will be slightly more palatable, as the team will at least be able to rely on its defense.