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Brandon Williams: Ravens shooting to surpass 2000 record-setting defense

The Ravens are looking at their defense to help carry this team after investing heavily in the unit during the offseason. Patrick McDermott/USA TODAY Sports

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens' defense still has to prove it's one of the NFL's best this season.

What has already been established: This defense doesn't lack confidence.

Nose tackle Brandon Williams is the latest to declare that this defense can be special, suggesting this year's Ravens unit is shooting to eclipse one of the best in NFL history.

"The bar set by our defense is already very high, and our goal is to notch it up even more," Williams told Gridiron Magazine. "The defense that helped us win that 2000 Super Bowl is the standard, and every year we're trying to reach and surpass that standard. We're never satisfied and we always want to get better."

This comes two months after safety Tony Jefferson said this defense has "an opportunity to be legendary." Ravens coach John Harbaugh also said after the draft that the expectation is for this defense to be "great."

Pursuing the Ravens' 2000 defense, which strong-armed the franchise to its first Super Bowl, is a lofty goal. The Ravens posted four shutouts that season, the most since the 1976 Steel Curtain defense in Pittsburgh. They gave up the fewest points (165) over a 16-game schedule and the fewest rushing yards (60.6 a game). Both records still stand.

The Ravens are banking on this year's defense to be dominant after the resources devoted to that side of the ball.

Baltimore spent $56.75 million in guaranteed money on its defense in free agency. The Ravens signed Jefferson, the top available safety; re-signed Williams, the No. 1 free agent in ESPN's rankings; and brought in Brandon Carr, a nine-year starting cornerback.

Baltimore also used its first four draft picks this year on defensive players, adding cornerback Marlon Humphrey, pass-rushers Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams and defensive end Chris Wormley in the first three rounds.

"The defense that is being built in Baltimore is one of the best," Williams said. "We're going to do something really special this year, I can feel it. Our defense is amazing."

Baltimore was the best defense for the first 13 weeks of the season in 2016, holding teams to 296.1 yards per game. But the Ravens gave up an average of 400 yards in the final quarter of the season, when they lost three of their last four games to fall out of playoff contention.

The Ravens' veteran players report to training camp Wednesday and hold their first full-team practice on July 27.

"Why wouldn't you set that kind of high bar?" Williams asked. "You don't set yourself a small goal -- you shoot for the moon and land among the stars. You need to have the highest of goals, and if you get close to them, that's amazing."