Giving up the big play has been a struggle for the Ravens secondary through four games this season.
The piece-mealed unit of Dean Pees defensive backfield has certainly been responsible for many fans holding their breath every time an opposing quarterback drops back to pass.
Heading into their week five game against the Colts, the Ravens and more importantly their secondary are facing their biggest test of the season — Andrew Luck and Indianapolis’s number one ranked offense.
“It’s always a challenge, really, with all the quarterbacks. But there are a few that’d be elite, and he’s one of them. It’s really sometimes not so much about stopping him – it’s stopping the whole system,” Pees said following practice on Thursday when asked about how difficult it is to stop the strong-armed Luck.
It isn’t necessarily going to be stopping the pass, but also stopping the Colts 18th ranked rushing tandem of Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw.
“You can get too caught up in just stopping a quarterback, and then they just beat you some other way. We just have to stop their whole system. We have to do a great job across the board on defense,”
“He is a great quarterback, but they also have great receivers – they have a Hall of Fame receiver [in Reggie Wayne] – they have two good running backs [in Ahmad Bradshaw and Trent Richardson], and they just have good talent. Everybody looks at their passing yardage – 320 [yards per game] – but they’re running for 120, which is not shabby. It’s just a really good offense with a great quarterback.”
While the Ravens run defense is surrendering an average of just 82.5 rushing yards a game, it’s their 24th ranked pass defense that all eyes will be on including Matt Elam and veteran safety Darian Stewart.
“Well, I think they’re doing real well. I’ll admit, I don’t think we played real well in the back end in the Cleveland game, and that was a lot of guys. It’s never one guy. There are a lot of things that happened there, and it wasn’t just Matt, and it wasn’t just ‘Stew,” Pees said about the struggles of both Elam and Stewart.
“Last week, I thought Matt Elam played really well. We put him in the slot at nickel with very few reps against a good quarterback. And I don’t know if [the media] has seen the film I saw, but there were two passes – I don’t know who would’ve defended them – and [Cam Newton] just put it on the money. Sometimes you just have to say, ‘That’s the way it was.’ We do a lot of stuff, and to throw a guy in a new position and learn it overnight is tough to do. My hat’s off to Matt,”
“He came back real well last week and played well in the slot for us. And we’re trying to roll guys in there like Terrence and some other guys, and it gave a lot of guys a look and let them all do what they do.”
The Ravens are at the point with their piece-mealed secondary they are willing to try anything to improve, which is why we saw them insert rookie Terrence Brooks who played well in his 30 snaps against Carolina last week.
With Indianapolis’s impressive wideouts, it’s expected that Brooks will see even more snaps on Sunday as Pees eluded to at the podium today.
“He did a good job. We needed to give him a look,” Pees responded when asked about Brook’s performance against the Panthers.
“We tried to put him in a position when we thought he was getting ready, and last week we thought he was ready to do some things for us. He played 30 snaps or something like that, which was a good amount of time for a guy really getting in his first game.”
One such way of giving their secondary at least a chance on not giving up the “big play” is formulating a consistent pass rush and given the state of the Colts offensive line, Pees should be ready to attack at all odds.
The Ravens will look for help not just from Dumervil and Suggs but from one the Ravens unsung heroes of the defense, Pernell McPhee to make some noise against Luck.
“[Ravens linebackers coach] Ted Monachino did a great job last week. Almost all four of those guys – McPhee, [Courtney] Upshaw, Suggs and Dumervil – average about 40 snaps,” Pees acknowledged.
“They were all within a couple snaps of each other, which is great, because then you’re keeping guys fresh. It helps when our offense controls the ball, too, [and the offense plays] 60-something snaps. When you have depth like that, it’s nice to roll everybody in.”
So as the Ravens head into Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday afternoon in hopes of seeking back-to-back road wins for the first time since 2012, the defense will need to certainly keep fresh and limit the damage so Flacco and the offense get their fair shot in what promises to be a high scoring affair.
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