Ray Lewis still playing at a high level, just not his old level

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When Cowboys fullback Lawrence Vickers, hardly a future Hall of Famer, fired back at Ray Lewis earlier this week, it underscored what has become evident at times this season.

Ray Lewis isn’t necessarily Ray Lewis anymore.

The Ravens middle linebacker is still a good player, but at 37, he isn’t able to change games single-handedly the way he used to, and he isn’t enough to make up for the glaring absence of outside linebacker Terrell Suggs.

The result is a Ravens defense that has become surprisingly average (or worse). After being ranked third in the league last year, the Ravens have slipped to 24th in total defense, 20th against the run.

That’s shifted the focus to Lewis, and Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun has a lengthy look at his season to date.

“Obviously, Ray is like a quarterback and when things don’t go well, people will point at him,” former Colts coach and current NBC analyst Tony Dungy said. “People are getting up on Ray and blocking him. He’s not the same player he was 10 years ago. When I was coaching, I told the guys, ‘If we don’t block Ray Lewis, he will make every tackle.’

“He had big guys in front of him and he didn’t have to take on a lot of blocks. That’s not his strength. It’s tougher now for him. It’s a young man’s game. It’s hard for me to believe it was 2003 and I was coaching him in the Pro Bowl. Is he the same player now as he was at 27? No, but he still brings a lot to the table. I would be surprised if they don’t get this run defense squared away.”

Dungy wasn’t the only one to note that Lewis didn’t look like the same player these days. Others were less charitable in their observations, especially after the Chiefs ran at will on them last week.

“He’s outmanned at the point of attack,” said retired Ravens offensive lineman Wally Williams, a former teammate. “He’s not as physical. You see a lot of Ray on the ground, on his back. He gets overpowered and stuck to blocks.

“You can’t expect a guy to not lose a couple of steps with all the wear and tear on his body. You’re not accustomed to seeing Ray have so many problems. It’s glaring, it looks really bad.”

It’s far too soon to shovel dirt on Lewis, or to suggest he’s no longer a good player. He’s just not the same player he was, and when the level was so high previously, the drop-off can’t help but be noticeable.

58 responses to “Ray Lewis still playing at a high level, just not his old level

  1. Of course he’s not playing at his old level. That’s what happens with every player no matter the position they play. Ray is still a beast and I would NOT want to be a RB or WR on the receiving end of one of his tackles. Lewis is truly a legend and has brought a great amount of intensity and leadership to the NFL ever since he entered the league. This is coming from a Pats fan.

  2. Production is obviously important, but what Ray brings to the team is so much more than that. There’s not a team in the league that wouldn’t want Ray in their defensive huddle.

  3. The guy is 37 and will go down as one of the best LBs to ever play the game. Anyone expecting a guy to be the same player at 37 that he was at 27 is an idiot. Most guys have already been watching from the couch for a few years at that age. He’s still a good LB, but if the Ravens haven’t been preparing for his inevitable decline, that’s on the Ravens, not Ray Lewis.

  4. What does Lewis do well anymore? He is not good against the run, and he can’t cover. I listened to Rodney Harrison talk about the key against the Ravens was getting a receiver or fast tight end in the slot matched up against Lewis, and then go that way every time. Lewis was one of the best defensive players I have ever seen play. He has really fallen off though (which is natural considering how much he has played), but because of who he is, he is out there a lot more than he should. I wonder if he could be more effective if used less. I doubt he would ever let that happen though.

  5. I like to meet any man that has can move the play the same at age thirty seven, not to mention playing one of the challenging positions in the league.

    Ray Lewis spot in the Hall of the Fame is already confirmed, I would love to see players take shot at Ray Lewis when he is his prime.

    Although his physical attributes maybe wearing, his inspiration attribute can not be measured, the ability to lead a group of grown man on one mission can not be measured.

  6. Offense or defense, of course a team is going to slip in the those rankings when they lose one of their BEST players. Even more so when that player is one of the best in the league, and I’m pretty indifferent towards Suggs.

    If the Lions lost either Megatron or Stafford, would it be fair to blame the other for the offense falling off? No.

  7. The best thing about Lewis’ impending retirement is no one will have to watch his silly stupid pregame gyrations.

  8. Even with a lost step (or two) the fact is that at this point in his career Ray is more than just “QB” of the Ravens defense – he’s Mr. Baltimore. He sets the tone for everyone else in that building – like Michael Irvin once did for the Dallas dynasty in the 90s.

    As long as Ray can play at a competent level – which he most certainly still can, even if he’s no longer am All-Pro – he is an asset on and off the field. Just ask the Ravens if they want to replace Ray Lewis.

    I think not.

    -a Browns fan.

  9. The problem isn’t so much Ray, its the fact that the D-line apart from Ngata has just been mediocre to bad these first 5 games. Kemoeatu and Cody have both been unspectacular as run stuffers so far and they are completely MIA when it comes to a pass rush. McPhee and Jones at defensive end haven’t been much better. At least with those two, they’re both playing big roles for the first time in their young careers so I have faith they will get better as the season progresses. But to lay all of this on Lewis (who never took on linemen when he weighed 255 so I’m not sure what the big hoopla is with his weight loss) is foolish, it just shows you’re parroting others and not truly watching the games.

  10. I’d take London Fletcher over Ray-Ray any day of the week. Better stats, doesn’t think he’s a preacher and never helped cover up a murder!

  11. When Ray Lewis does retire my heart will hurt. I’m no Ravens fan, but all real football fans should have respect and admiration for one of the greatest players to lace up his cleats. The NFL won’t be the same without him.

  12. Uh, no he’s not. This article is proof that the national media continue to give Lewis a pass on his deteriorating skills. We’ll all see just how much his skills have deteriorated when the Ravens get spanked by the Texans. Lewis will look lost out there, and while I’ll enjoy the outcome of the game, it will be sad and pathetic to see this once great player watch as younger and better players pass him by.

  13. WAIT? A 16 year veteran isn’t exactly why he used to be?! He’s no longer defensive player of the year?!
    Seriously. Get off his back. If the Ravens do well they get almost no credit and respect, and if they slip a little, the blame gets spread around viciously.
    Whenever we win a big game it is always overshadowed by the story of the team Jo lost, and we get talked about for 30 seconds and taken for granted.

    The steelers lost last night, EVERYONE on the defense looked prehistoric, and I watched NFL LIVE only to hear a 15-minute praise session on Ben Roethlisburger’s talent. THEY LOST.

  14. Why are you still paying any atention to this guy? The Cleveland Browns showed the world what he has left…

    Nothing but his mouth.

  15. Ray Lewis is a physical specimen. He’s played in almost 250 NFL games including playoff games just about every season and he’s still more physical than about 90% of middle linebackers in the league at 37 years old. Yes he’s lost a step but if he hadn’t by now I would question whether or not he was human. Bottom line is what he lacks in physical ability he more than makes up for with leadership and savvy and if you think as Ravens fans we don’t take solace in knowing that Ray Lewis is on the field to anchor that D then you’re crazy.

  16. “he isn’t enough to make up for the glaring absence of outside linebacker Terrell Suggs.”

    Yah god forbid the coaching staff should do their job and keep building the team up instead of putting the entire Def effort on the shoulders of Atlas, I mean Ray Lewis.
    I just recently watched “A football life” with Ray Lewis. I now have a higer respect for this guy. He is Mr. Football. He is a rare combination of talent and desire. So many times talent doesn’t have the professional level of desire, (Moss to name of of the legions)
    Sure he is slowing down, but that’s where experience makes up for it. So perhaps the Coaching staff should do their job and start drafting, instead of relying on the previous coaches work (Coach Billick). If you don’t have a quality back up for Suggs, that’s the Coaches and GM’s fault, Not Ray’s

  17. I hate to say it, but Ray have definitely slowed down since the injury last year. He was playing at an All-Pro level before Marshawn Lynch juked him real good. I think it also hurts that Terrence Cody has regressed a bit, so Ray is having to take on guards more than he has in many years. I hope the Ravens trade up for Manti Te’o in 2013 and let him study under Ray for a year or so.

  18. That Vickers goof is always jawing in games against the Ravens. His record in those games? 2-10…most of which he played in Cleveland since he was so good that he played for the only team that probably wanted him, the Browns.

    Here’s a bit of free advice…don’t tug on Superman’s cape.

  19. Just to add a bit to my previous comment, when people think of a dominant Ray Lewis, don’t they think of him as Super Bowl MVP in ’01? The reason he had such a solid game and racked up all of those tackles: big Tony Siragusa and the always underrated Sam Adams eating up 3 to 4 blockers that game with the great Michael McCrary doing his job at end as well. So the point is, is Ray to blame for the defense’s struggles? Partially, but if this young d-line doesn’t start stepping it up, it will be the same story all season with their run defense.

  20. He’s only good for jumping on piles to pad his stats nowadays.

    That and he is also an accessory to murder.

  21. I can’t really put to much him since suggs is out, but i really feel like Pees is Mattison 2.0. Media will blame old ray ray, i blame the brain behind them all.

  22. Good lord, haven’t people been saying that Ray Lewis has lost a step for a good 5 years now? At what point does saying something like approach broken record status? And what difference does it make if he has lost a step or two anyway? He’s still the type of player opposing offenses have to plan against, and the same goes for Ed Reed. Unless or until Ray Lewis can be considered irrelevant (which I will eat my hat if that day ever comes) I don’t see the point of constantly remarking that he’s slower than he was even 5 years ago.

  23. In Steeler Country, where I was born and raised, a number of fans vehemently dislike Ray Lewis. I’m not one of those fans.

    Ray Lewis, to me, is what the game is about – a heart and soul guy in every way.

    As for whether his play has gone from A+++ to A-, maybe — but that should be no knock on Ray. I can’t think of a single linebacker in NFL history that performs at the level Ray Lewis is playing at, at 37 years of age.

    Ray brings a lot of intangibles too. Ray is very football-savvy and a leader and teacher of men.

    Keep on keepin’ on, Ray.

  24. A still fond memory was Steeler FB Dan Kreider meeting Lewis head on and drilling him into next week a few years back…

  25. So many people who have no football IQ, I can’t pick out just one. So here’s a brief shutting down of the uneducated:

    #1-Your RB (Charles, Richardson, etc.) did not put up X yds on Ray. They did it on the ENTIRE D. And using those 2 since they seem to be mentioned a few times, I’ll remind you Richardson didn’t break 100, and the majority of Charles’ carries were to the outside, yanno, where Ray is not. He also amassed 40 total yds after the half. Impressive.
    #2-Ray IS the defensive QB. He pumps them up. He calls the D audibles. He educates rookies on how to play D, like say…Jimmy Smith, Cody, Webb, Williams, Upshaw, McClain (undrafted who became a starter learning from Ray Lewis). So the MAJORITY of our young D.
    #3- If Cam gets blame, then Pees should too. Cam has weapons he won’t use, but so does Pees. He hardly blitzes, nothing exotic, all vanilla…But for some reason everyone blames Ray…

    So before we all go crushing this Ravens D, particularly Ray Lewis. Think twice. Learn a little something about the game. Then I’ll consider listening.

  26. It has been said here already but worth repeating. Ray brings a lot more to the Ravens than his physical skills. He brings experience, leadership, passion, and drive. Its the same as Peyton Manning brings a lot more to Denver than how far or how fast he throws the ball.

    I think it was on Football life where I heard a QB say that his physical presence isn’t as intimidating anymore. Rather the fact he’s calling out the plays they WILL run at the line and getting it right that really bothers them. That’s football knowledge and leading his team.

  27. He has always had a big motor
    Gutsy plays are his forte
    How long can he continue to thrive?
    Unless father time comes calling
    Several more seasons i would think
    Everybody may not agree with me but
    Ray will play for as long as he can

  28. steelerdeathstar says: Oct 12, 2012 1:25 PM

    A still fond memory was Steeler FB Dan Kreider meeting Lewis head on and drilling him into next week a few years back…


    An even more recent fond memory is james harrison getting left in Jared Cooks tracks as he ran down the field to set up the game winning field goal!

  29. Not to mention his quality of play at all, but he is a treasure, and I hope he sees that there is no free ride, playing longer means living shorter. We want to see him on the side lines commentating or coaching for years to come.
    Time to hang it up Ray!

  30. steelerdeathstar says: Oct 12, 2012 1:25 PM

    A still fond memory was Steeler FB Dan Kreider meeting Lewis head on and drilling him into next week a few years back…
    Or perhaps Mendenhall as a rookie running his mouth saying he’s run all over Ray Lewis and ended up with a broken leg courtesy of Ray blowing him up at the line?

  31. The guy is all ego. The stupid dance at the start of the game is all about him, not the team.

    The overdone over the top speeches he gives to the other players on the team, the church like preaching…

    give me a break.

    Glad it’s almost over.

  32. London Fletcher is the same age playing the same position and he is a better football player that Ray Lewis was and is today. And London didn’t have Serigusa and Sam Adams eating blockers for him. Nobody knows that because London puts in his work and keeps his mouth shut. We have to listen to Ray preach every week. The media makes him out to be the greatest because he is a media dream, outspoken and so spiritual. Don’t get me wrong, he is a great linebacker but he is overhyped by the media.

  33. He may not be the same Ray Lewis but he is still better than 95% of the middle LB’s. As a Giants fan that loves defense, he was almost a dominant as LT. Baltimore will really miss him when he hangs them up. I will miss watching him.

  34. Outside of the Chiefs game he’s still playing pretty well against the run this year.

    Ray is a liability in pass coverage this year though.

    People are also putting way too much into the Ravens defensive decline on Terrell Suggs. Losing Jarret Johnson and Corey Redding really hurt the Ravens, not to mention losing Chuck Pagano.

  35. He is playing at like 225 pounds or somthing this year, down from 260 last year. I think he weighs as much as Bernard Pollard now, that has to have a massive effect on his game.

    Oh and you redskin fans crack me up. London Fletcher better than Ray Lewis? Ha! Lewis has more Defensive Player of the Year honors than Fletcher has legit Pro Bowls (2 of Fletchers Pro Bowls he was a replacement player). Get real redskin fans…

  36. Honest answer from ANYONE.

    If somehow your team could pick up Ray Lewis for nothing (no trade, no salary, etc. – in other words, “for nothing”), how many of you would tell the team to turn down the deal? Even if the deal was for just one year.

    If you would tell your team to turn down the deal, please explain the reason. If you say no, but don’t explain, you’re almost certainly blowing nothing but hot air.

  37. I would turn it down, critter. No disrespect to Lewis at all either. A player who was larger than life and played a long productive career elsewhere simply can’t be an icon to a new franchise like he was to the former one. Being an icon on his team and the first player his franchise ever drafted is part of his identity as a player. Because of that, I think it would be tough for a player like him to go out with another franchise. He might feel out of place/out of his element trying to be “just another ILB/new guy” somewhere else even as a respected veteran. I think he knows he has maybe a year or two left based on comments he made about not hanging around to play against his son. He’ll retire a Raven, as he should IMO.

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