I reached out to
to chat with him about the "aging"
defense for a story that ran in Saturday's newspaper, but I didn't hear from Wiley until after I had sent my story into my editors Friday night (I'll cut Marcellus some slack since he's operating on West Coast time). Anyway, I still wanted to pass along his thoughts, especially since he thinks the Ravens will contend for a
again this season.
I asked Wiley, who played defensive end in the
for 10 seasons and recorded 44 career sacks, about
. Wiley said it's because linebacker
have played at such a high level together for more than a decade, and that people immediately think of those two thirty-somethings when thinking about the Ravens, not some of their younger talents on defense.
"You will always identify the defense with Ray Lewis, with Ed Reed, even though
was the Defensive Player of the Year," Wiley said. "[Lewis and Reed] deserve all the attention they get. They've earned it. And once again -- even this year -- you still have to respect those guys when they are out there."
Wiley believes that the leadership and experience Lewis and Reed bring to the table will help the Baltimore defense make the transition with younger players -- like outside linebacker
, defensive end
, and cornerbacks
-- taking on more significant roles. As he points out, the Ravens have plugged many productive players into this defense over the past decade.
"You saw so much turnover, that they could move guys in and out and still be successful," he said. "When you talk about Ed Reed and Ray Lewis being there, they always have the same kind of constant progress and success. And even though they have lost some players -- like
, who is in San Diego -- this is still a team that will continue to go out there and play because the culture is in place and the identity is in place."
Wiley said that the offense of the
is similar in that regard, with quarterback
being the constant. The Patriots have surrounded Brady with a lot of different players with different skill sets in his superlative career, and most have thrived playing with Brady. The same goes for Lewis and Reed here; the supporting cast has changed, but the Ravens have routinely ranked among the NFL's stingiest defenses.
That will continue in 2012, Wiley predicts.
"They were one
bear hug away from advancing to the Super Bowl, if he comes down with that ball," he said, referring to the loss to New England in the