The Baltimore Ravens' defense is focused on regaining its hard-hitting reputation.
The unit lost some of its swagger last year following the retirement of linebacker Ray Lewis and departure of safety Ed Reed. Baltimore was also lacking in effectiveness, ranking 12th in the league and yielding more than three touchdowns per game.
"I'm not saying that we were bad. We weren't bad. But the fact of it is, we've got to be dominant," defensive coordinator Dean Pees said Friday. "That's what we're trying to do now — get back to where we belong in that top 5, top 3, and have people fear coming in here and playing us."
Back in the day, the Ravens indiscriminately dealt out punishment to any member of the opposition who had a football in his hand.
"I don't know that we had that last year at times," Pees said. "Times we did, times we didn't. But we've got to have it all the time. That's what we're trying to develop, and that's what we're trying to get done."
Pees hopes a mixture of exuberant youth and veteran leadership will produce the desired results. Longtime pros Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil expect big things from rookie linebacker C.J. Mosley and third-year linebacker Courney Upshaw, along with cornerback Jimmy Smith and safety Matt Elam.
"I'm excited about our defense, how fast we're looking," said Ngata, a five-time Pro Bowl tackle.
Although rookie Brent Urban is lost for the season after tearing his ACL this week, the Ravens still have enough young players so that Ngata and end Chris Canty can get a break every now and then.
Defensive line coach Clarence Brooks expects this season to be vastly dissimilar to 2013, when the Ravens went 8-8, gave up 75 points in the final two games and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
"Putting it quite simply, last year wasn't good enough," Brooks said.
John Harbaugh won't stand for another year like 2013, the first time in his six years as head coach that Baltimore went home after the regular season.
"We're in position to improve on defense — all phases — and we need to," he said. "We want our run defense to be more dominant. We want to be more solid with our underneath pass coverage. But certainly, you can't give up big plays. We gave up too many of them last year."
Lewis wouldn't have stood for it. Suggs, the most veteran player on the unit, won't put up with anymore, either.
"Let's just get back to the basics," he said. "We forget sometimes that teams have to stop us. We've always been a very fast and violent defense, and we need to get back to that."
Dumervil left the Denver Broncos to join the Ravens, and his first season as part of the esteemed Baltimore defense was a huge disappointment.
"Not good enough," he said. "I think we did some good things but we left a lot on the field. I think injuries and other things maybe contribute to that, but either you get it done or you don't. So, we're looking forward to that and we're looking forward to taking care of business this year."
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