Griping About – & Understanding – the Ravens D

Ngata Suggs
Photo courtesy of ICON SMI

I’ve read a lot of things lately about how the Ravens need to part ways with defensive veterans like Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs, Lardarius Webb, and others.  The theory is that younger players are more hungry, more athletic, and do not cost as much.  I can understand that sentiment, but parting with key defensive starters (regardless of age and experience) is a bad way to build a defense.

When it comes to the Ravens (and most teams) during the pre-season, there are a couple of things that I think fans just need to accept and understand. Here are four:

 

1. This is preseason.

The games are meaningless and the players know it.  Vested veterans that stand absolutely zero chance of being cut don’t go as hard because they don’t have to and they don’t want to get hurt.  Can we blame them?  Most veterans would likely skip pre-season if they were given the option.

 

2. Preseason games are a great time to find out what kind of depth each team has.

Getting young guys out on the field, even against other young guys, is critical and is the only way coaches can really evaluate who is deserving of making the final roster cuts.  Right now, it seems like Baltimore has good depth at receiver, running back, tight end, linebacker, and DL. However, corner, safety, QB, and the OL are pretty rough, no doubt about it.  These depth concerns may not be as noticeable without pre-season games though.  Make no mistake about it; the coaches are well aware of these issues.

 

3. Teams cannot have superstars at every position at every level of the depth chart.

I’d love to see the Ravens with a secondary consisting of Patrick Peterson, Richard Sherman, Webb, and Jimmy, but that is horribly unrealistic.

 

4. Dean Pees – like him or hate him – is a bend-but-don’t-break coordinator.

It’s just who he is and it is how he chooses to game plan. From my perspective, his philosophy appears to be predicated on every player beating their man regardless of scheme.  Sometimes this philosophy lacks exotic blitz packages, stunts, and so forth.  This could be why opposing offenses seemingly are able to dominate between the 20′s, but scoring in the red-zone becomes a bit more of a challenge because there is a lot less field to work with.  Personally, I prefer more of an aggressive and attacking defense similar to the philosophy of Chuck Pagano or Rex Ryan.  I can’t really argue too much with the results though.  Keep in mind, the Ravens did win a Super Bowl with Dean Pees at the helm.

If you look at the two best defensive units in the league – I believe they would be Carolina and Seattle – their schemes and game plans are unique and innovative.  They also do an exceptional job expanding on what they do well.  In Carolina’s case, they have two of the best pass-rushing defensive ends in the NFL (Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson).  As a result, their secondary (which does not have any superstars) had 14 total interceptions last year to go along with the team’s 60 sacks. That’s a lot of turnovers and a lot of pressure on the opposing quarterback.  If you add in their linebackers’ interception total, you get 20.

Seattle, on the other hand, just has a completely dominant secondary. Earl Thomas is easily the best free safety in the NFL.  He is probably about as close to an Ed Reed as we’ll see for quite a while.  Kam Chancellor, their strong safety, is built like a linebacker and runs like a receiver.  We all know about Richard Sherman as a lock down corner, but Byron Maxwell is pretty good as well.  Seattle’s linebackers and defensive line aren’t great, but Pete Carroll and Dan Quinn (Gus Bradley is trying to build this in Jacksonville right now) have their defense set up so that teams pretty much have to try and run against them.  Their leading pass-rushers were Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril with eight sacks a piece.  Not bad at all, but both Suggs and Doom had more and they weren’t working with Seattle’s secondary either.  The problem offenses deal with when facing a defense such as Seattle’s is if they start playing from behind, running the ball won’t get it done because there simply isn’t enough time in a game to do that; ergo, they HAVE to try and pass the ball.  And that falls directly into what Seattle does best.

My point is, similar to what we said for years regarding the offensive side of the ball and Cam Cameron/Jim Caldwell, a coordinator’s ability to game plan, scheme, and play call is very important. Unless there are stud players at every position, coaches have to be able to develop a scheme that amplifies what a team does the best.  And even when a team does have stud players at multiple positions (see Denver last year), they are still devising schemes and game plans to increase their probability of success rather than simply JUST relying on guys to “beat their man.”

I hope that I am wrong, but I believe that we will see a lot of the same from the Ravens’ defense this year – bend, but don’t break.  That is why it is critical for the offense to start strong every game.

Try to keep those things in mind before pulling your hair out during preseason games – there will be plenty of time for that later on.

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About Paul Lukoskie

Paul Lukoskie
Paul (aka WickedSolo) has been an avid football fan since he was a little kid. As former player himself (through college only...turning pro and having million dollar contracts and fame just sounded too overwhelming...or he's just a 5'11" 200lb guy who was only good enough to play D-3 ball...but who's...more

15 Raves on “Griping About – & Understanding – the Ravens D

  1. Curtis on said:

    Okay on the last point i understand what you mean, but look at the talent on defense, why can’t we dominate in between the 20′s and also the redzone, one of the deepest front 7s and linebacking corps in the league you would at least expect decent play in between the 20′s, as you said its preseason, i understand 2012 and the ageing defense i understand the 2013 overhaul, but this year is no excuse we are young talented and deep. Hell even at secondary if webb and smith come back for week one we have one of the best cornerback tandem in the league. Like i said if the talent isnt there i agree with the last point, but the talent is there, no excuses why we can’t dominate in between the 20′s again, no excuse why dean pees shouldn’t try to take advantage of the new speed of the ravens defense, no excuse why dean pees shouldn’t use that deep talent on the front seven to strike fear in the hearts of QB’s again, no excuse why the speed of CJ mosely,arthur brown, daryl smith and strike fear in the hearts of tight ends and running backs. Look i agree its preseason they are not playing full speed and the playbook is going to be vanilla im not expecting much in the preseason, but don’t sit there and try to comfort us the fact that a defense with one of the deepest most talented front 7s and linebacking corps in the league can’t at the least crack top ten, or at least compete for it. If the talent is there why do the bend but don’t break crap when the talent is there, that possibility is ridiculous and if that is true Dean Pees should go, if he is not willing to attack, if he is not willing to use the deep talent to dominate in between the 20,s again then he should go. Its part of the bussiness we are in, as raven fans we expect great defenses especially if the talent is there. Fine i expect the fact our defense won’t be top 5 but at the least top 10 the least, you should expect the same don’t lower your standards, damnit if we pay for a good product we should expect results.

    • Paul on said:

      Curtis – I get where you’re coming from. And I definitely agree that the Ravens have a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball; too much to be as inconsistent as they’ve been the last few seasons. Making matters worse IMO is that they’ve invested quite a few high draft picks into the defensive side of the ball.

      This is why I think a lot of the defensive issues have more to do with Pees and his scheme than actual talent.

      • kel on said:

        i agree; it’s time for pees to go=ravens had 3 great defensive coordinators that went on to become head coaches. that’s not going to happen with pees.

    • Frank on said:

      couldnt have said it any better… i personally think this approach is what has been costing us games… its not the ravens way.. its not what we as fans are accustomed too… THIS IS SIMPLY A JOKE.. its sad to say but noone in the NFL fears us anymore.. we are not who we used to be and all that falls back on PEES…i hate his face and everything he stands for….its really a problem that needs to get fixed and the only way is to say BYE TO HIM… do the same u did to CAM harbz… show him the door.

      WE SHOULDNT BE OUT OF TOP 10 WITH THE TALENT WE HAVE….ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE…

    • Paul on said:

      Richard – that they did. They still did enough to win though.

      As long as the team gets to the playoffs, should we really complain too much?

  2. Hollywoodheiz on said:

    Weeb out until at least opening day is huge. Jimmy Smith on AJ Green is one thing but Asa Jackson on 6’2″ Marvin Jones or. 6’2″ Sanu scares the hell out of me. Whatever is wrong with Weeb ( back) hopefully will heal in time for that game. If not, lets hope the front seven bring the heat on Dalton.

    • Brandon on said:

      Hopefully Marvin Jones’ broken foot will help you sleep better at night. I personally think Jimmy Smith is the most important of the two to get back as soon as possible. It will be easier to deal with the Bengal WRs without Webb than without Smith due to his size and strength. I just hope we have Webb back before week 2 when we face the Steelers and their speed across the board at the WR position.

    • James on said:

      A. Jones broke his foot and will be out for a few weeks
      B. Height doesn’t matter, both these guys are average receivers
      C. Considering Aiken, Brown, Butler and Jones are guys Jackson probably lines up against the most during practice, he has experience defending guys 6’2 or taller
      D. I don’t care who is playing in the secondary, the front seven should always bring the heat

  3. Boldin Raver on said:

    I think the guys on the board make some good points about Pees, but I also think they are too hard on him. The complaint is that the bend but don’t break philosophy isn’t aggressive enough. I love aggressive, too, but I think if the 2000, 2006 Ravens D methods had been tried in 2012, 13 with the gathering slowness of the players we had (McClain, Pollard, Ihedigbo, Cary Williams, Lewis, Ed Reed, Ellerbee), the result would have been that the good QBs in the league would have feasted. So I think Pees selected the right tactic based on what his players were capable of – his containment approach works when you have mature players who can disguise effectively and subtlety yet remain adept at pouncing when the opposing offense makes their mistakes. Now, however, a transition is underway. Fast new players are entering into the equation, but they are young. They will miss tackles, give away their blitzes early, read offenses wrong, fall for screens, jump at play fakes and do it all at lightning speed. I think that Pees will show he is more flexible than you guys in the boards give him credit for. I think Pees will adapt his tactics by using the speed and aggression of the new players to take away the time that opposing offenses have to make decisions with lots more blitzes of different variety. There will be three-safety looks and I think we may enjoy it and take a new view of Pees. If he uses bend-but-don’t-break with the youngsters, the smart QBs will exploit their mistakes and score and score. So, I don’t think he has a choice but to keep them far away from the end zone. We’ll see when the real season begins. I may of course be using “hope as a method” as they say. But here’s to a return of “Fast, Physical and Pissed Off” Ravens D.

  4. AJ on said:

    I’m in agreement with the poster curtis, it is unacceptable for the ravens defense to be out of the top ten for three years in row. I mean if the talent is there utilize the talent, last year we had Doom and suggs on the edges, Jimmy smith emerged. I understand the safety play was subpar, but men c’mon to actually watch the blown leads for two years in a row, due to vanilla schemes. It’s gut wrenching and dissapointing. If the ravens defense is out of the top ten and still blowing leads this year. There is no excuse for Pee’s to remain in his position. WE HAVE THE TALENT UTILIZE IT PEENUTS.

  5. rocky mattioli on said:

    really not a fan of coordinator bashing….not a big pees proponent,but,talent is what wins games…every team has recycled coordinators that have been recycled ad infinitum….

    what`s worrisome to me is what we`re seeing given the amount of resources the front office has expended on defense…..the last two drafts have been almost exclusively defense(with our top picks) …usually you`ll see several guys absolutely stand out right from the jump…none of these guys have looked like real difference makers(I`m including mosely…he might be a training camp demon,but he seems like in games he`s getting pushed around and tends to make tackles waaaayyy down the field)….he may be as good as advertised…it`s early…but we`ve drafted defense with our first 7 picks the last few years….it`s early to judge this year`s crop…but last year`s class has been underwhelming thus far…

    this on the heels of misevaluation of guys like ed Dickson/Shipley/gradkowski and almost our entire back-up defensive backfield….we`ve brought in mediocre talent like miles and stewart and they easily out-perform our highly drafted prospects….

    I know that it`s blasphemy to question a front office that`s had pretty much sustained success over the years…but I`m noticing some slippage …if we give them all the credit when things go well don`t we have the right to question decisions when things don`t pan out?…..

    here`s hoping this year`s class has an impact player or two mixed in…

    • Paul on said:

      If talent alone is what really wins games, why have the Browns been so bad for so long? Why do the Redskins, the Cowboys, the Dolphins, and so many other teams do so poorly year after year? It isn’t for a lack of talent. Everyone in the NFL is talented.

      I agree with you that talent can go a long way, but a coach has to know how to utilize said talent.

  6. Anonymous on said:

    Now dean pees when he came in talked about how he won,t change anything, remember that when chuck pagono left and he said he wouldnt change anything, and the last two years i gave him passes for because of like i said above, the defense last year played decent inside the twenties and actually gave aaron rodgers the lowest QBr rating in his 2013 season, the reason why i believe they were inconsistent is because of chemistry issues, but that shouldn,t be a problem this year im really not worried about the defense, its just the whole possibility of that happening makes me sick to my stomach.

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