The (highly) replaceable Ray Lewis

The on-field performance of Ray Lewis in 2012 may not be that difficult to replace. Geoff Burke/US Presswire

An MRI on Monday confirmed for the Baltimore Ravens what many already had expected: Ray Lewis, the face of the franchise since its relocation to Baltimore in 1996, will require season-ending surgery to repair a torn triceps. Losing their unquestioned leader is obviously a huge blow to the Ravens, but has Lewis' level of play this season made the loss easier to absorb? A look at the linebacker's 2012 performance and his likely replacements argues that the loss may not be as devastating as you might imagine.

Decline in play

Even before the injury he suffered Sunday, this was not the Ray Lewis whom we have come to know the past 17 years in the NFL. Through the first six games of the season, he had struggled in run defense, as a pass-rusher and in coverage. His struggles in coverage were being noticed by opposing offenses, too, with more passes being thrown into his coverage than before.