OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale likes to confuse opponents with exotic blitzes and tight coverage.
Baltimore's defense has ranked among the best in the league since Martindale took over that unit in 2018.
Martindale ranks as the second-best defensive coordinator behind Brandon Staley of the Los Angeles Chargers heading into the 2021 season, according to Pro Football Focus.
"The Ravens are one of the league’s shining lights in terms of using data and building their defense from back-to-front, opting to pay the likes of Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters while jettisoning Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue in favor of cheaper, but just as effective, options — such as Tyus Bowser — this offseason," PFF's Eric Eager wrote.
"Baltimore withstood the release of star safety Earl Thomas III in the preseason and still finished seventh in yards per play allowed. The Ravens have been able to use over 60% of their salary cap on the defensive side of the ball the past few seasons, but with Lamar Jackson’s contract extension on the horizon, and Ronnie Stanley’s already signed, the job for Martindale will be harder in future years."
Rounding out the top five are:
3. Keith Butler, Pittsburgh Steelers
4. Josh Boyer, Miami Dolphins
5. Todd Bowles, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last season, the Ravens allowed the NFL’s second-fewest points (18.9) and seventh-fewest yards (329.8) per game. Baltimore also owned the No. 2 third-down defense (34.0%) and produced a league-high 25 FFs.
Cornerback Marlon Humphrey led the NFL with a Ravens’ single-season record 8 forced fumbles, also registering a team-high 11 passes defended. Chuck Clark tallied 96 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 1.5 sacks, 1 interception, while outside linebacker Matthew Judon led the team with 6 sacks and 21 quarterback hits.
Cornerback Marcus Peters also tied (two players) to produce the NFL’s third-most takeaways (4 interceptions and 2 fumble returns). Rookie linebacker Patrick Queen posted a team-high 105 tackles, while he was also the NFL’s only defender with at least 70 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 Interception, and 1 defensive touchdown.
Martindale, who also served as Baltimore's linebackers coach from 2012 to 2018, will be a hot head-coaching prospect after the season if the Ravens perform at a high level again.