Pees to Bring Mayhem Back to Ravens’ Defense?

Dean Pees

Last season, out of necessity, the theme of the 2012 Baltimore defense was bend but don’t break.

As the best red zone defense in the NFL, the Ravens certainly held up when they needed to. However, they weren’t themselves. They weren’t imposing their will. And they weren’t creating as many turnovers, only forcing 12 fumbles and 13 interceptions. Thirteen teams finished with more turnovers.

Instead of attacking, the defense was holding on for dear life.

Once the unit was healthy and able to showcase all of their key defensive players in the postseason, they got back to their playmaking ways from years past. Dean Pees’ group notched nine sacks and forced 11 turnovers (including five forced fumbles) in just four games. The battle-tested defense also continued their regular season red zone prowess, most notably against the Patriots and during their final defensive stand in the Super Bowl.

Carrying the momentum from their Super Bowl run, the bend but don’t break theme needs to transform into mayhem.

When it comes to gambling with the blitz, Pees may not be Chuck Pagano. And he’s certainly no Rex Ryan. However, his use of creative and deceptive blitzes certainly multiplied when he had the horses to execute.

The former New England defensive coordinator ran more variations of zone blitzes in which he moved his outside backers around. He also deployed ILB Dannell Ellerbe as a human battering ram at the line of scrimmage. Even when the players he launched couldn’t get home, they created enough pressure to throw off the timing of a play. There was no better example of this than Colin Kapernick’s overthrow of Michael Crabtree on the Niners’ final TD scoring attempt. It was Ellerbe who created enough pressure to rush the throw.

Clearly, Ellerbe isn’t coming back in the building. Neither are the six other starters that flew the coop in the offseason. But Pees has more pure talent to work with than a year ago. And he won’t have to hold back in his play-calling to protect a limited and injured defense from being exposed. Now he can take more chances all over the field and install a more unpredictable plan of attack.

It all starts up front. With the defensive line that the Ravens have, Pees can mix and match personnel with stand up rushers or linemen who can switch between DE/DT positions. Take Chris Canty as a prime example. He’s someone who can play on the nose or even play as a 4-3 defensive end.

In comparison, last year’s line was hardly versatile with perhaps the lone exception of an injured Pernell McPhee. This year, the line is so deep that McPhee’s versatility will go outside where he is going to function as a hybrid rusher. Like Canty, McPhee will line up in various spots but he’ll also rush from a two-point stance.

Then there are the rest of McPhee’s new edge rush mates—Elvis Dumervil, Courtney Upshaw, and of course Terrell Suggs. All of these guys can shift around from LB to down line spots. In the case of Upshaw, there is a chance that we will see him rush from the ILB spot, supplanting Ellerbe’s inside crasher role. During camp Daryl Smith and Arthur Brown have assumed such duties as well.

On the back end, the return of cornerback Lardarius Webb should naturally usher in the return of the slot corner blitz. Between Webb and Corey Graham, Pees has two corners that have impeccable timing as blitzers and they’ll be dangerous in third-down passing situations.

At safety, it will be interesting to see how Pees plays things. In Matt Elam, James Ihedigbo, and Michael Huff, he has players who aren’t afraid to throw their bodies around and attack the line. All three defenders could be on the field at the same time depending on the formation.

If the Ravens are going to be the type of defense they expect to be, they need to stop teams from scoring, and in turn, they need to create scoring opportunities for their offense. They have to get back to being a more dynamic defense that takes the ball away. There is a great chance for them to continue their playmaking ways from the postseason while remaining an elite red zone defense.

If those two sides come together, the Ravens will be back to ranking in the top five on defense.

And mayhem will be back in Baltimore.

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About Dev Panchwagh

Dev Panchwagh
Dev Panchwagh is a versatile analyst who breaks down the Xs and Os of the game and has been a columnist/analyst for Ravens24x7.com since the summer of 2004. In his regular season column Battle Plans, Dev highlights the Ravens' keys to success against each upcoming opponent. Dev started modestly as a sports...more

7 Raves on “Pees to Bring Mayhem Back to Ravens’ Defense?

  1. Big C on said:

    Completely agree, this defense is going to catch people off guard. They will be very vanilla in the pre-season, but once the season starts they’re going to have so many guys and looks they can throw at you that it’s going to be frightening for people. I’m seeing 50+ sacks, a lot of interceptions, a lot of forced fumbles and a lot of QB knockdowns. As long as he isn’t plain and vanilla like Mattison was, we’ll be fine…

  2. playboy52 on said:

    I agree with u big C I think.people even myself at times unfairly blamed pees for the defensive woes we had last year but with injuries we had and the age of some of our players it was tough to try to.implement a organized chaos type of defense with that type of situation. So in the off.season Ozzie made one of the smartest and boldest move of his Gm tenure in Baltimore and just scrap the defense and retool it with younger and fastser players even having to get rid of some fan favorites to.execute that plan. I think dean pees will incorporate a organized chaos style type of defense that will resemble the 2006 defense and now with a offense I think this could be one the best ravens team ever

  3. jws on said:

    I don’t know what planet you are from but Pees is not a great defensive coach, New England fired him! Coaches are as good as their players and Pees has some outstanding players. If Ngata, Suggs, Webb, McClain and newly require linebacker D. Smith stay healthy and have good years, DE Dumervill, DL Spears, Canty are healthy and rookies Elam, Brown, Williams are as good as draft scouts say and Graham and Jimmy smith play well along with fat Upshaw loses his weight and improves ,how can Pees not look like a good coach no mater what schemes he uses or what blitz packages he runs? Why Cam Cameron failed and other coaches to do is…. failure with talented players(Flacco ,Rice, Torrey Smith) and failiure to use them it properly. Yes ravens could have because of Ozzie another top 5 defense but Pees has nothing to do with it!!!

    • Mac in Va on said:

      Pees wasn’t fired. In fact, in his last year (’09) the Pats D was ranked 5th overall. Subsequently the Pats have finished 8th, 15th and an abysmal 25th, last year since his departure. Take from that what you will, but from what I’ve been able to read about him he’s a much admired, respected and desired DC.

      He was hired as a LB coach in 2010 and became DC after Pagano left to coach the Colts. In his first year he presided over a D line with less depth and a host of injuries. Getting back to Dev’s point I think the “bend don’t break” philosophy was a necessity of the conditions he had to work with and yet we still had one of the very best red zone defenses.

      This year he has Ngata back in the middle, Canty and Jones at DT ,”Sizzleville” (with acknowledgement to Tony Lombardi…first time I’ve heard that one!) on the edges and some quick, young Rookie talent in Elam and Brown. I’ve heard him say he’ll be blitzing from several different angles and he’s definitely got the personnel for it this year. I’m thinking this will be a top 5 defense and that takes the right personnel with the right DC. I think we’ve got both.

  4. Dev on said:

    I never said he was a “great” defensive coach. However, how can anyone realistically judge him last year given what he had to work with? When he actually had a full lineup (still minus Webb), the defense got the job done. You also need to check your facts as Pees was never fired by New England; he just wasn’t retained when his contract was up. To think that a coach has nothing to do at all with the success of a defensive or offensive unit, and performance is all based on talent is a pipe dream.

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