Ravens Are Cross Training Photo Credit: Baltimore Ravens

Lombardi's Way Ravens Are Cross Training

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Dean Pees Looks to Disguise Defense

During Ravens training camp this summer there was an emphasis on multiple roles for the team’s defensive players. Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees seems determined not to be so vanilla with his alignments and not as predictable with his sub-packages.

He explains…

“I’m hoping we can get to the point where [opposing teams] have got to kind of figure out who the heck is rushing and who is dropping. A lot of these guys are linebacker types. We are kind of experimenting with all that stuff.

“We are cross-training a lot of guys.”

We’ve seen outside linebackers sliding inside – inside linebackers sliding out. Defensive ends are dropping into coverage zones.

During 2015, the Ravens like many teams across the league, seemed to rely more on nickel as their base package. Look for that trend to continue and expect members of the secondary to also assume multiple roles. The Ravens might go to the dime package more frequently to keep up with the league’s trends. The days of “box safeties” seem to be distant images in the rearview mirror according to Pees.

“I really don’t even like the term ‘box safety.’ That is really an old school [term]. It is hard to do that anymore now. When they lined up in two-back high pro and high slot, you could put one [safety] down. The offensive coaches didn’t care. Now they are going to find that guy.”

So the theme of multiple roles, whether that be in the front seven or back end, is in large part an effort to prevent opposing quarterbacks from finding “that guy”.

“If you look around the league, there are a bunch of DBs [playing linebacker]; Arizona’s got one. Their dime ‘backer is a defensive back. [There] are a bunch of guys like that. We did that at New England; we’ve done it here. We are going to continue to do it.”

Theoretically the approach has merit. But given his recent track record, one has to wonder if Pees has the wherewithal to effectively design the approach.

Team observers as well as coaches and players close to the Ravens, regularly sing Pees’ praises. They say he is dialed in and is adept at installing a game plan. But somewhere along the way there’s a breakdown between the design and implementation. Pees’ defenses seem so unprepared at times on the field. They get off to sluggish starts and provide inviting space in coverage. They fail to finish games.

And they often reveal “that guy” because they tip their collective hand far too early, enabling opposing quarterbacks to make key pre-snap adjustments.

If the first two games of the preseason are any indication, the same troubling trends from 2015 have spilled over into 2016.

But Pees sees things differently.

“I really felt like we were going to be a good defense last year. And we ended up being [a good defense]. Last half of the year we were a darn good defense in the second half of the year, but we can’t wait until the second half of the year this year. We have to start out where we ended up.”

It’s troublesome that Pees believes this.

The Ravens gave up 23.4 points per game over the final half of the season which would place them at No. 16 in the league. And let’s keep in mind that during those final 8 games the Ravens faced the Jaguars, Rams and Browns – not exactly offensive juggernauts. Plus, five of their final eight games were at home and they faced backup quarterbacks in 3 of the eight games.

Want more?

Let’s take a look at the post-Ray Lewis Ravens defense and their ability to create turnovers.

cross training

These are the results of a team that isn’t multiple, but one that is rather predictable.

A team that fails to surprise.

A team that lacks cross training.

And while it’s nice to think that the Ravens can be multiple in 2016, don’t hold your breath. Pees’ history tells a different tale.

There’s a reason that Leslie Frazier sits on deck.

cross training

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24×7 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.

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