Lewis leads aging but dominating defense

Ray Lewis is not the superstar he once was, but he remains a very good linebacker and is still a leader on the Ravens' impressive defense. He watches tape extensively and always works very hard on and off the field, which pays big dividends on game day. Many times he will recognize what his opponent is looking to do before the snap, but his body can't always do what his mind wants at this advanced stage of his career. However, he can still relay what he sees to his teammates pre-snap. He remains a bone-crushing striker, who very rarely takes false steps in his pursuit of the ball carrier and is an overall intimidator. Lewis led his team with 121 tackles in 2007 and was invited to the Pro Bowl for an amazing ninth time.

While Lewis is still going strong, his partner in crime Bart Scott took a step backward in 2007. The Ravens' defense sets up in different looks, which tend to confuse the offense. When the Ravens show a 3-4 look, Lewis and Scott both play on the inside, but when they use a more traditional 4-3 scheme, Lewis is the middle linebacker and Scott plays on the weak side. Either way, the ball carrier is often funneled in their direction, which gives Lewis and Scott plenty of opportunities to make big plays. Scott was a terror in 2006, but he simply did not impact games in the same fashion this past season. Look for Lewis and the rest of the defense to help Scott return to his dominating Pro Bowl form.

Lewis is an influential veteran who will provide invaluable insight to rookie LB Tavares Gooden. Gooden has a lot of talent and could potentially play any linebacker spot in a 4-3 scheme or either inside spot in a 3-4 scheme. He went to the University of Miami, like Lewis, so Lewis should take a special interest in Gooden's development. Baltimore has not drafted a linebacker with Gooden's skills since selecting Edgerton Hartwell in the fourth round of the 2001 draft. That is a great tribute to just how reliable Lewis has been over that span. Gooden eventually could replace Lewis and should immediately light a fire under Scott.