The offseason hype for the Baltimore Ravens' defense rolls on.
This spring, new safety Tony Jefferson said Baltimore's defense has an opportunity to be legendary. Defensive tackle Brandon Williams said this summer the unit could reach levels of the 2000 Ravens D.
Corner Jimmy Smith added to the chorus this week.
"This year it is a special unit," Smith said, via ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley. "We feel it. I think the defense as a whole feels it. We know it, and like I said over and over, you have to prove it now."
The Ravens' defense has leaped off the film during their two preseason appearances. It's a unit that's younger and faster than last season. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees has brought heat this preseason and swarmed quarterbacks.
The Ravens boast the No. 1 defense in the preseason through two games. It's a meaningless stat, but the method in which they've attained the ranking can translate to the regular season. They held the Washington Redskins' first-team offense to minus-1 yard on two drives two weeks ago. Against Miami last week, the starting Ravens defense allowed just 44 yards.
As Hensley points out, owning the No. 1 defense in the preseason doesn't necessarily translate to the regular season, with only one team in the past five years finishing in the top five for the season.
Pees, however, views it as a positive.
"To say it doesn't mean anything, I think coaches tell you that," Pees said. "I think that is crap. You want to go out there and you want to play well every day and every week no matter who is on the field. If it is the first team, the second team, the third team -- whoever the heck that is -- you want to play well. If you don't want that, I don't know why you are coaching, and I do not know why you are playing. Yes, I am pleased with it so far, but we just have to keep it going."
Regardless of whether they keep that ranking through the end of the preseason -- facing a ramshackle Buffalo Bills offense this week gives them a good chance -- the traits shown by Baltimore have meshed with the offseason hype. It's a unit that has speed at every level and players that hawk the ball. They boast the top safety duo in the NFL in Jefferson and Eric Weddle, which provides extreme flexibility.
If Pees keeps bringing the heat when the regular season begins, the Ravens' defense will be one of the most entertaining units to watch in 2017.