This article marks the start of a new AFC North roundtable series where the managing editors of the AFC North teams will answer questions within the division.
Patrick Backlas, cover32’s Baltimore Ravens managing editor’s question:
Will the Ravens have a Super Bowl caliber defense in 2017?
Carter English, cover32’s Pittsburgh Steelers managing editor:
The Ravens’ defense can be top five in the league in 2017, but it’s not quite Super Bowl-caliber just yet. Let’s call it AFC North-caliber. Baltimore can win the division behind an always impressive rushing defense and a safety tandem of Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson. Beyond that, Baltimore needs more offensive help. Cornerback durability presents potential issues. Brandon Carr is 31, Jimmy Smith has missed 11 games in three years and Tavon Young tore his ACL this offseason. First-round pick Marlon Humphrey must be ready to play right away. Terrell Suggs is still an effective rusher but might be nearing the end. Overall, this group is very good, possibly great, but won’t carry Baltimore alone.
Conor Agnew, cover32’s Cleveland Browns Managing Editor:
They certainly have the potential to be a Super Bowl caliber defense. On paper this Ravens defense has everything they need to take that step from a good defense to an elite defense. Last year they racked up 31 sacks and ended the season with a +5 turnover differential. If the Ravens want to take that step and be considered a Super Bowl caliber defense, they need to get more pressure on the quarterback, especially given the offensive potential of teams like the Steelers and the Bengals. Whether or not an aging Terrell Suggs performs like an elite pass rusher or not is going to have a big impact on how good this defense can be. Young players like Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams are also going to have to be big factors in the pass rush for the Ravens.
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Zach Peterson, cover32’s Cincinnati Bengals Managing Editor:
They do have the potential to be a Super Bowl caliber defense. Signing Brandon Carr and utilizing the draft to address defensive issues has helped propel them into top ten categories. The secondary has the potential to shut down the pass and with Eric Weddle in the backfield fishing for interceptions, many teams may go underneath, which plays into the scheme the Ravens utilize. Playing in a division against the Bengals and the Steelers, this defense will be tested quite a bit. Those games will help show if the team is there, or additional improvements need to be made.