In November of last year, I noted here on BSR that the Ravens lacked a closer. That defensive stopper to take over the reigns from departed stalwarts Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. The defender who steps up in the big moments at the end of games and gets it done.
Last season the Ravens simply did not have that player and it showed with how many close losses the Ravens wound up with. The Ravens played in nine games decided by three points or less, losing four. With an 8-8 final record, just one of those losses being turned into a win could have meant the playoffs in Baltimore.
Finding multiple players who can play the role of a stopper should play a major part in whether the Ravens defense can rebound and perform at the level fans in Baltimore expect. With highly rated draft picks added to a still talented roster, there are multiple places to look to find potential defensive closers.
Below are my thoughts on a few potential closer options, first with a few vets and then some exciting young additions.
1. Terrell Suggs, OLB
T-Sizzle should be the closer. He gets paid like that guy and he certainly carries himself like that guy. The only problem is consistent production.
As great as Suggs can play at times, he also tends to disappear for stretches. In baseball parlances, Suggs may fit more naturally as a setup man than a closer: good for the occasional save and some dominant stretches, but generally needs help at the end to get the job done. However, the Ravens need more and it’s time for Suggs to step out of the shadows of #52 and #20.
2. Haloti Ngata, DL
While Ngata has been an important cog in the Ravens defense over the years, like Suggs, he hasn’t made the consistent impact to justify being called one of our closers. Oh, he can be dominant, but he can also disappear. He also doesn’t pile up sacks, so he’s not one to be counted on to blow up a late fourth quarter drive.
Like with Suggs, Ngata still has a ton to offer the team. He’s an obvious choice to be a closer, as his talent screams for it, but he hasn’t proven to be a consistent late game difference maker over his career. We’ll see if that changes in 2014.
3. Jimmy Smith, CB
It is PRIME TIME (pun intended) for Jimmy Smith to go make his money. Signed through next season, the former first round pick needs to start asserting himself into the conversation as a shutdown corner to get the free agent pay day every player dreams of. Coming off a disappointing off season incident in Towson, it is in Smith’s best interest to focus his energies on the field and continue making himself an impact defender.
Flashes of elite cover skills and play-making ability make Smith a perfect closer candidate, but there seems to be more. As evidenced by the final play of Super Bowl XLVII, Smith has ice in his veins (regardless of whether he committed a penalty or not). That kind of mettle is what you look for in a closer.
4. C.J. Mosley, ILB
The Ravens’ first round selection has been as advertised: a complete stud. By the quarter pole of this season, I think we all can expect Mosley to be one of the closers and rocks of this defense. He proved to be that kind of player in his years at Alabama and he has done nothing to hurt that reputation so far as a pro.
Mosley appears to have all of the tools to join the Ravens’ lineage of great defenders.
5. Terrance Brooks, FS
Terrance Brooks is starting to flash. Getting more playing time with the first and second units due to injuries, the rookie safety is starting to look comfortable and make plays on the field. For example, his closing speed on his sack of Robert Griffin III on Saturday was really impressive, it was like someone pressed the turbo button on his game controller.
Brooks could be exactly what the Ravens need in the defensive backfield: a lightning fast center fielder who isn’t afraid to lay some thump on run support. I expect Brooks to be one of the starting safeties by the end of the season and his skills scream out as someone who could evolve into one of the closers.
Moving forward each week, I plan to document which players share in the defensive “save” (if warranted) within my post for the week. If should be fun to see if these players or any others step up to the plate and emerge as a true defensive stopper for the Ravens.
The selections will be completely arbitrary, but may prove to be an interesting way to track the defense moving forward.
Be safe over Labor Day weekend.