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Baltimore Ravens: More 4-3 Fronts in 2013?

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | The 2013 offseason has been nothing short of a process of change for the defending champion Baltimore Ravens.

From the departures of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed to the additions of Elvis Dumervil and Michael Huff, the defense has undergone a near complete makeover. With six starters from last year's defense gone, Baltimore's defense will look different in 2013 personnel wise.

But could the defense also look different schematically?

Under defensive coordinator Dean Pees, the Ravens have operated primarily out of a 3-4 front, which focuses on speed around the edge, particularly in the pass rush game. Granted, Baltimore's defense in 2012 was a hybrid front, as outside linebackers Paul Kruger and Terrell Suggs often shifted to a three-point stance along the defensive line, making the defense a 4-3 set before the snap.

During the offseason, the Ravens' moves have pointed toward the team possibly utilizing the 4-3 defense heavily in 2013. To replace Kruger, the Ravens added Dumervil, who had plenty of success as a defensive end in Denver's 4-3 defense.

His best year in the NFL came in 2009 when he recorded a career-high 17.0 sacks. During that season, Denver actually operated out of a 3-4 set, however Dumervil's comfortability in the 4-3 could lead to Pees wanting his outside linebackers to line up as defensive ends more.

Along the defensive line, the Ravens added three key linemen who figure to contribute heavily in 2013. Through free agency, they added Chris Canty and Marcus Spears. In the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft, they selected nose tackle Brandon Williams.

In order to get those three on the field along with Haloti Ngata, Arthur Jones and Pernell McPhee, perhaps having a four-man front could be the route to go.

Another factor that could play into a partial switch to a 4-3 is the competition at inside linebacker. Rookie Arthur Brown and veterans Daryl Smith and Jameel McClain will compete for the two starting jobs, but if one stands above the rest, then that linebacker could be able to handle the middle of the defense with two outside linebackers to his side.

At Kansas State, Brown was an outside linebacker in the Wildcats' 4-3 defense. If he is more comfortable at outside linebacker, more 4-3 looks may be implemented to accompany him and many others.

In order to utilize the talent the Ravens have on defense, particularly along the defensive line, a 4-3 defense may be used much more than in 2012. With the myriad of key contributors that the Ravens have, the 4-3 defense could turn out to be the most ideal route.

Kyle Casey is a sports writer living in Baltimore, Md. He maintains his own football site, End Zone Report, and contributes to Russell Street Report, a Baltimore Ravens blog.

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