Advertisement

How different will the Ravens’ defense look under new DC Zach Orr?

The Ravens quickly replaced Mike Macdonald as defensive coordinator, promoting inside linebackers coach Zachary Orr.

Orr, who played for the Ravens from 2014-2016, is a fast-rising star in the coaching ranks.

The 31-year-old Orr has been on the Ravens staff since 2017, save for one season with the Jaguars and Urban Meyer in 2021.

An undrafted player from North Texas, Orr was forced to retire because of a neck/spine condition. During his final season in 2016, Orr had his best year, finishing with 133 tackles, three interceptions, and two fumble recoveries.

The Ravens introduced Orr to the media on Tuesday, and with the former NFL linebacker firmly entrenched, we’re looking at the multiple ways this defense will look different.

Retooled unit

Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

The Ravens have almost 30 players set to test some free agency, and 15 players are on the defensive side of the football.

Orr could lose Justin Madubuike, Jadeveon Clowney, Geno Stone, Patrick Queen, and Kyle Van Noy as significant contributors on defense.

Madubuike and Queen became first-time Pro Bowlers at the perfect time.

Madubuike led all defensive linemen in sacks (13), and Queen had a career-high 133 tackles and didn’t miss a game in four seasons. Baltimore should look to use the franchise tag to keep one of them in the fold if they can’t reach a long-term deal. Madubuike’s ability to bring pressure up the middle and play multiple positions is a unique skillset, and Queen and Roquan Smith make up the league’s top inside linebacker tandem. Losing Madubuike or Queen would create a void, and young players such as linebacker Trenton Simpson and tackle Travis Jones would be asked to assume more prominent roles.

Critical contributors like Ronald Darby, Rock Ya-Sin, Brent Urban, Daryl Worley, and Arthur Maulet could all depart, denting Baltimore’s depth.

Even more physicality

Dec 25, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker Zach Orr (54) reacts on the sidelines against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the third quarter at Heinz Field. The Steelers won 31-27. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 25, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker Zach Orr (54) reacts on the sidelines against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the third quarter at Heinz Field. The Steelers won 31-27. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore was a physical unit under Mike Macdonald, but Orr could make this unit even more lethal at all three levels.

Orr “bleeds purple and black,” and the former Raven is expected to maintain the standard set by Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and others.

Revamped staff

Baltimore Ravens defensive line coach Anthony Weaver looks on during the team’s NFL football training, Wednesday, June 16, 2021, in Owings Mills, Md. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Baltimore Ravens defensive line coach Anthony Weaver looks on during the team’s NFL football training, Wednesday, June 16, 2021, in Owings Mills, Md. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Baltimore will look different from a roster standpoint, and there will be multiple changes in the coaching staff under Orr.

Orr must fill the following coaching vacancies: defensive line (replacing Anthony Weaver), defensive backfield (Dennard Wilson), and linebacker (himself). Previously of the University of Michigan, Doug Mallory has already reportedly been added as a defensive backs coach.

Schematically, Orr said not much will change, just as it didn’t change under his predecessor.

“We want to build on that. That’s a scheme that we helped build here for years,” Orr said. “We’re always looking to get better. I think that’s why you’ve seen great defenses here in the past. That’s what we’ve got to continue.”

Revamped pass rush

The Ravens led the NFL in sacks (60) with contributions from veteran edge rushers Jadeveon Clowney (9.5 sacks) and Kyle Van Noy (9 sacks), who are both pending free agents after having excellent years.

Odafe Oweh had a career-high five sacks and enjoyed his best all-around season. At the same time, second-year outside linebacker David Ojabo has spent most of his two NFL seasons rehabbing from injuries and was limited to just three games in 2023.

Maduiuke, Clowney, Van Noy, and others are all free agents.

Clowney plays like a Ravens, but he’s been hired as an assassin for years and could be blown away by a massive offer from an emerging team.

Overhauled secondary

Dec 25, 2023; Santa Clara, California, USA; Baltimore Ravens cornerback Ronald Darby (28) reacts after being called for a foul during the first quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 25, 2023; Santa Clara, California, USA; Baltimore Ravens cornerback Ronald Darby (28) reacts after being called for a foul during the first quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Stephens emerged as the Ravens’ most consistent cornerback in 2023, but he’s a natural safety.

Meanwhile, the offseason will give Pro Bowl corner Marlon Humphrey time to recover from an injury-plagued season.

Humphrey will return despite a drop-off in production, but three veteran corners are pending unrestricted free agents – Ronald Darby, Arthur Maulet, and Rock Ya-Sin.

Darby was solid as a starter when Humphrey was injured, and Maulet was the primary nickel corner.

Baltimore could lose three players but have third-year cornerbacks Jalyn Armour-Davis and Damarion “Pepe” Williams waiting in the wings.

NFL Draft prospects

 (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

The recent success of draft picks means the retool will include an inflection of new defenses.

All-Pro safety Kyle Hamilton was drafted in 2022, while Queen and Madubuike were drafted in 2020.

In April’s selection process, Baltimore has the No. 30 overall pick and five of the first 134 picks.

Story originally appeared on Ravens Wire