View from Afar: The Ravens Lack A Closer

leadership

2013 has been a season of transitions for the Baltimore Ravens.

Long-time leaders have moved on to either new teams or new endeavors. The team dynamic, both on and off the field, has changed dramatically.

While some out there have looked to the lack of performance and execution as a leadership void, I think it’s another problem entirely.

What the Ravens lack right now is a closer.

For those out there saying, “What is this baseball weenie talking about?” No, I’m not talking about Jim Johnson. I’m talking about Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.

I know… I just said that what the Ravens lack wasn’t a leadership void, but a closer. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are the prime defensive and team leaders missing from the 2013 Ravens.

What’s the difference? Being the team leader and the closer are two separate roles entirely. Baltimore fans have simply been spoiled by having two future Hall of Fame players who could fill both roles.

Closing, aside from leading by example, has nothing to do with leadership. It’s a killer instinct.

It’s knowing when to strike and having the stones to follow through.

It’s the guy who comes up with the huge interception that puts the opposing team away. It’s the guy who makes the game saving tackle in the final seconds.

It’s the guy who comes up with the big sack when it’s needed.

The Ravens have had some decent defensive production so far in 2013. Baltimore currently ranks 13th in total defense and 3rd in the league in sacks. Not altogether Raven-like, but not terrible.

Unfortunately, this hasn’t been enough. Five of the Ravens’ six losses have been decided by six points or less. This includes games against the Bills, Packers, Steelers, Browns, and Bears.

Except for the game in Buffalo, the Baltimore defense broke down and let the opposing team drive down the field to win the game in either the 4th quarter or overtime. When the team was in dire need of a closer, no one stepped up to fill the void. Much like O’s fans wondered about Jim Johnson for much of this past summer, where would the Ravens be if they had been able to close out those games and turn losses into wins?

So which Raven defenders could fill the void? Here are my thoughts on a few candidates:

Terrell Suggs: T-Sizzle is an obvious choice as the guy who must step up and take command as the closer of the defense. Suggs has had a few seasons where he was most certainly one of the closers, along with Lewis and Reed. However, without his two mentors around this season and despite a productive year, Suggs has yet to consistently “close” games in ’13.

Elvis Dumervil: I’ve included Dumervil on this list mainly because he is getting paid big money and is certainly an elite pass rusher (2nd on the team to Suggs and 9th overall with 8.5 sacks). While the sack production is there, Dumervil hasn’t exactly been closer material. There have been too many bad penalties at crucial junctions to call Dumervil the closer of this team. That doesn’t mean he can’t do it, but he can’t continue to make mental errors that cost the team.

Jimmy Smith: Jimmy Smith is continuing to evolve and grow into the player the Ravens thought they drafted. As teams continue to challenge Smith, let’s hope that growth also includes some big interceptions to go along with his top-end cover skills.

Matt Elam: Matt Elam isn’t Ed Reed, but he was a consistent playmaker at the University of Florida. Elam is a rookie, so I don’t expect to necessarily see this growth in 2013. However, the Ravens will need Elam to become that kind of player in the NFL moving forward.

Andrew Holly is a Towson University grad and a diehard fan of everything Baltimore, especially the Ravens and Orioles. Now living in Tampa, Andrew hopes to provide BSR readers with the perspective of an out of town fan who doesn’t conform to the narrative of local sports talk.

9 Comments

  1. Nappy Yurns

    November 22, 2013 at 10:44 pm

    Love it, “Andy”.
    What’s more important to you, NFL team closer or MLB closer? Thanks for taking my message, I’ll log off and read your answer whenever u get to it.

  2. MGW

    November 23, 2013 at 8:11 am

    I guess I never thought of it this way. Suggs will never be the guy as he’s the class clown. In recent weeks, Jimmy Smith seems to be stepping up to be that guy.

  3. Ravens2488

    November 23, 2013 at 9:25 am

    It’s kinda like here on the BSR… MGW is the “Closer” for this site. MGW knows when to strike and has the stones, three of them actually (it’s a long story about peanut butter, teal underwear and a dime) to follow thru. Plus, MGW gets paid the big bucks ($1.73 per comment) to take on this added responsibility.

    • Carl

      November 23, 2013 at 9:45 am

      Ravens2488,

      You seem to be a “Man of the People”, But when you talk about the dime, do you mean actually dropping one? Picking it up?

      I ordered my breakfast sandwich a short while ago, and spoke into the clown’s face. Guy seem disturbed that he had to go to the back and get my sausage and egg sandwich. Muttered something about a “wall flower”.

      • Ravens2488

        November 23, 2013 at 9:59 am

        I’m surprised all the coverage my comments about MGW and a Dime are getting. The mass amount of comments about it are overwhelming. But it’s a story that needs to be told…

        Carl, basically like it states “dropping a dime”. There are a lot of meanings but the one that “Davey Boy” spoke of is the most accurate. Go with that one.

        Is that the happy or scary looking clown face? It’s the guys damn job to get your order from the clown’s face and then get your food. Why would he be mad? Is he just a miserable person?

        • Carl

          November 23, 2013 at 10:17 am

          Guy was really agitated. Said he was awaken really early by some 7 year old juvenile delinquent riding by his house on his bike purposely ringing the bell on his handlebars.

  4. Ravens2488

    November 23, 2013 at 10:02 am

    And just to let you know Carl, I agree with MGW as he and I have been saying the same thing for years and I always back my brothers play.

  5. Marv Cumberland

    November 23, 2013 at 10:30 am

    I actually had a kid sitting on the other side of my fence shooting BB’s at the water jugs holding down my pool cover one year. I was on the phone and kept hearing a “ting, ting” sound, looked out the window and there was the little hoodlum! I checked the pool and I had a bunch of little holes in the pools and water was coming out.

  6. Stopgowalkon

    November 25, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    I don’t think closers need to be reserved to the defense. How many games could have been put away with translating a FG into a TD, or a punt into a FG? Flacco needs to be the closer.