The Baltimore Ravens have perennially boasted a dominant, physical defense. That was far from the case in 2021, though. Depleted by injuries, Baltimore took a massive step back on that side of the ball. Head coach John Harbaugh hopes to turn things around in 2022, and he’s turning to a familiar face help him.
Mike Macdonald worked under Jim Harbaugh at the University of Michigan for the 2021 season but is heading back to the NFL to transform the Ravens defense.
John Harbaugh hired Mike Macdonald as the new defensive coordinator in Baltimore
The Baltimore Ravens shockingly fired defensive coordinator Wink Martindale after the 2021 season.
John Harbaugh’s squad finished the season with a mediocre 8-9 record, losing each of its last six games. It was a rough stretch that saw the Ravens drop from the No. 1 seed in the AFC to out of the NFL playoffs completely.
Even though the constant injuries played a massive role in Baltimore’s struggles, Harbaugh and the front office felt they needed to make some changes. Martindale’s firing was the first shoe to drop.
The 14th-year head coach didn’t waste much time filling the defensive coordinator vacancy. He hired Michigan defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald, who was a member of the Ravens’ coaching staff since 2014 before heading to Ann Arbor in 2021. Macdonald most recently served as inside linebackers coach in Baltimore.
Macdonald is only 34 years old and becomes the youngest coordinator in franchise history, per ESPN‘s Jamison Hensley. He is also now the youngest defensive coordinator in the NFL.
“Mike is one of us — a Raven through and through,” said John Harbaugh. “During his initial seven seasons with us, it was evident that his leadership, intelligence, and passion would earn him the opportunity to be a defensive coordinator in the NFL.”
Macdonald helped transform Jim Harbaugh’s defense at Michigan
After working for the Baltimore Ravens for seven years, Mike Macdonald accepted the defensive coordinator position at Michigan.
By joining the Wolverines coaching staff, he officially worked under John Harbaugh and Jim Harbaugh in his career. The coaching brothers kept Macdonald in the family, and his presence paid huge dividends during his lone season at Michigan.
Under Macdonald’s leadership, the Wolverines fielded one of the best defenses in all of college football. They ranked No. 20 in the nation in total defense, giving up just 330.8 yards per game. That’s a massive jump from the 89th-ranked unit in 2020.
Michigan allowed only 17.4 points per game to opposing offenses, which ranked No. 8 in the country.
The Boston, Massachusetts native also helped NFL Draft prospects Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo enjoy the most productive seasons of their careers.
Jim Harbaugh’s squad won its first Big Ten title since he took over in Ann Arbor. Mike Macdonald deserves a lot of credit for the quick turnaround.
How will the Ravens defense look in 2022?
The 2021 season was a down year for John Harbaugh’s Baltimore Ravens, by their standards. The offense had its struggles, but the defense got progressively worse as the injuries piled up and the season wound down.
It was an uphill battle for Baltimore all season. The position group most affected by the injury bug was the secondary. Cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey and safety DeShon Elliott suffered season-ending injuries. Other defensive backs missed time, which forced Wink Martindale to turn to less experienced options.
The Ravens ranked dead last in the NFL in pass defense. The unit gave up 278.8 yards per game through the air and allowed 31 passing touchdowns.
The strength of the Ravens defense was stopping the run. Baltimore was second-best in that department, allowing just 84.4 rushing yards per game.
Mike Macdonald will have the task of coming in and righting the ship defensively. He’ll certainly have plenty of talent to work with, though. Linebacker Patrick Queen and edge-rusher Odafe Oweh are solid building blocks for the future. If Peters and Humphrey return healthy, the Ravens defense can be scary in 2022.
Baltimore blitzed often but struggled to generate consistent pressure. It will be interesting to see if Macdonald’s success with his rushers at Michigan will translate to the NFL.
The young defensive coordinator must prove himself, but there’s reason to be optimistic for brighter days in Baltimore.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Referen