Defenses That Should Return To Form In 2003

They may not be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins, or Philadelphia Eagles, but the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots want to regain their lost defensive presence.

Not every team has the type of defense that is played in Tampa Bay, Miami, and Philadelphia, but there are a few teams that have geared themselves to achieve as they did prior to the 2002 season. While Baltimore and New England were not bad defensive teams last season, they did not play to the standard they expected.
 
The Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots are depending on improved defensive units to once again help them regain the glory of days gone by and in the case of the NFL, the league is a wide-open crap-shoot towards the ultimate goal....the Super Bowl.......and both have had the opportunity to wear that crown in the past few years.

In Baltimore, the Ravens expect to return to the pinnacle of defensive success. Baltimore has switched to the 3-4 defense to fit their personnel. The strength of the defense could come from the linebacker position. Peter Boulware has proven to be a tremendous pass rusher and there is no reason to expect anything but a great season in store for the veteran. Rookie Terrell Suggs, a defensive end in college, is making the transition to outside linebacker in the pro-game will have the opportunity to rush the quarterback. Suggs has shown some inconsistency in training camp, but is improving as he learns the responsibilities of a new position. When Suggs becomes comfortable, the tandem of Boulware and Suggs will make opposing offenses cringe. Lets not forget that All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis, the best linebacker in the game is returning following shoulder surgery in the 2002 season.  Lewis has shown no ill-effects from the surgery, if anything the injury has caused Lewis to return as hungry as ever.
 
Talent along the defensive line is suspect and the move to the 3-4 defense should benefit the weakness of the Ravens defense. The Baltimore defensive linemen will not apply much pressure to the opposition, leaving that to the outside linebackers coming off the corners. The Ravens will blitz to create mismatches. Additionally, the Ravens have discussed the possibility to bringing back former Baltimore defensive tackle Lionel Dalton with the Denver Broncos.
 
The Ravens secondary is solid with Chris McAlister and off-season acquisition Corey Fuller at cornerback teaming with second-year safety Ed Reed to makeup one of the better defensive backfields in the game. The Ravens depth in the defensive backfield is questionable.

In New England, Bill Belichick is looking to regain the physical presence his defenses have been known for. Aggressive, multi-dimensional players are the forte of a Belichick defense, the 2003 version should have the look of his defenses of the past.  Like Baltimore in a sense, New England is also switching to a 3-4 scheme to maximize personnel talent. But, a Belichick defense is really a hybrid, they have shown the ability and tendency to switch up the rotations. From two defensive linemen to seven defensive backs, the Patriots are an unique team, playing for a unique coach.
 
Wanting to improve against the run and needing to gain the advantage of a pass rush, the Patriots appear to have addressed both issues in the off-season. Starting with the signing of free agent linebacker Roosevelt Colvin, New England grabbed possibly the best pass-rusher on the market and a player that is tailor-made for the defensive scheme.  Second-year defensive tackle Richard Seymour had a very good rookie season in 2002, and played well without having significant help at the tackle position. Belichick knowing that he needed yet another physical presence on the interior of the defensive line selected Ty Warren, a defensive tackle that has some pass-rush ability in the 2003 NFL draft. Teaming the young defensive tackles with experienced defensive end Willie McGinest and Colvin, the Patriots expect to handle the run and apply significant pressure on the quarterback.
 
Going with the 3-4 defense, the Patriots will have the opportunity to utilize a talented bunch of veteran linebackers that have bought into the unconventional defensive schemes of Belichick. Ted Johnson, Roman Phifer, Ted Bruschi, and Mike Vrabel make up a solid base of linebackers that have shown the ability to rush the quarterback at times in the blitz packages the Patriots deploy.
 
The very solid secondary features shut-down corner Ty Law, and the veteran safety duo of physical players, Rodney Harrison and Lawyer Malloy. The Patriots have shown the tendency to use their safeties in the linebacker zones amd that will continue in the 2003 season. One area of concern the Patriots have is at one of the cornerback spots, where veteran Otis Smith is in the twilight of his career.

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