LOMBARDI’S WAY: Is Mattison to blame for Ravens’ defensive struggles?

Lombardi's Way LOMBARDI’S WAY: Is Mattison to blame for Ravens’ defensive struggles?

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I don’t pretend to know more about defense than Ravens’ defensive coordinator Greg Mattison nor do I profess to know a lot about him that I haven’t heard from the players, other coaches and front office personnel. They have all given him the thumbs up and these football professionals have all forgotten more about football than I’ll probably ever know.

Mattison or “Matti” as he is affectionately referred to around The Castle, seems like a really good guy with a bright football mind who has clearly earned the respect of his players and for me that goes a long way especially when you consider the ample shoes he’s trying to fill.

Last year Matti was an assistant to the owner of those ample shoes, Rex Ryan. Matti was the linebackers coach on Rex’s defensive staff and being the sharp guy that he is, I have no doubt that he watched Rex closely and absorbed the exotic nuances of the organized chaos knowing that if Rex moved on to be a head coach elsewhere as anticipated, Matti had an excellent chance of succeeding Rex.
As we know, that’s exactly how it played out.

Yet I wonder like many of you, if he is a student of the game and he studied last year’s defense, why has it changed so much? What happened to the organized chaos? Was it broken? Did it need fixing? The Ravens were after all the No. 2 defense in the NFL.

We were told to expect less blitzing, better gap control, more discipline and fewer big plays yet through five games the Ravens have given up 19 plays of 20+ yards and 4 plays of 40+ yards while QB’s have an average rating of 80.4. Last season the Ravens surrendered 41 plays of 20+ yards and 6 plays of 40+ yards as quarterbacks struggled to reach a 60.6 average rating.

If you project the 2009 numbers out over the course of the season opposing QBs have enjoyed a 33% improvement in efficiency; opponents have experienced the pleasantries of 49% increase in plays of 20+ yards and a whopping 133% increase in plays of 40+ yards.

Is that the discipline and big play prevention Matti sought at the season’s outset?

Might injuries be at play here? 

Is it the personnel?

You could argue that the Ravens are more talented in the secondary this season with added depth. The defensive line should be stronger simply with the return of Kelly Gregg, right?

At linebacker the Ravens are missing Bart Scott. Is his absence responsible for this bleeding?

I have refrained from blaming Greg Mattison so far. But if the personnel hasn’t taken a significant hit (it hasn’t) and if health isn’t an issue (it’s not) then from my vantage point there are only a few variables left to explain the team’s defensive inadequacies and they are: preparation/ game plan; proper usage of personnel; comfort level of the players in the new system; play calling and execution. Four of these five are on Mattison. 

Is Matti capable of formulating the right game plan at the NFL level? He’s never done it prior to 2009.

Does his more conservative approach sit well with players who are used to being active and aggressive?

Rex Ryan has always been a coach who knows how to utilize the skills sets of his players in the right way. Is Mattison managing his talent properly?

Maybe he’s just not a great play caller. Maybe he tips his hand like a pitcher who tips his changeup and he’s easy to prepare for.

Obviously something is wrong and the common denominator seems to be Mattison.  

If it ain’t broke why fix it?

Perhaps it’s time for Mattison to kick a little pride to the curb and dust off the organized chaos before this defense and the season are dusted by Messrs. Favre, Palmer, Manning, Rodgers and Roethlisberger.

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24x7 Networks, LLC's founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and he hosts "The Fanimal" also heard on 105.7 The Fan, Saturdays from 8-9AM. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi. More from Tony Lombardi

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