Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees moved from the sidelines to the coaches box above the field Sunday in Cleveland.
Leading a unit ranked near the bottom of the NFL, it was a change Pees and Head Coach John Harbaugh worked out during the bye.
It appeared to pay dividends for the defense.
“I just felt like at this point, after seven games, I didn’t really like where we were,” Pees said.
“More than the interaction with the players, I needed to see exactly what is going on and where the breakdowns are occurring and get them fixed.’”
Pees has coached from the sideline and the elevated box at various points of his career. He said he’s done each about equally, so he’s comfortable either place.
It varies around the NFL where teams prefer to have their defensive coordinators during the game. Traditionally, the Ravens defensive coordinators have worked from the sidelines, as Chuck Pagano, Greg Mattison and Rex Ryan were all down on the field.
In his first year as the Ravens defensive coordinator, Pees likes to be on the field to have conversations with players quickly and hear what they’re saying to each other. It gives him a sense of whether they’re confused or frustrated, and he can get their perspective immediately.
But Pees said having such a young unit with players taking on some new positions, they aren’t able to tell him as accurately where a problem is occurring. That compares to when he had a savvy veteran such as linebacker Jarret Johnson last year.
“We weren’t as productive on the sideline as we could be in getting things fixed during the course of the game,” Pees said. “Like in Kansas City, we got it fixed at the half. If we could have fixed it earlier, it would have saved us a lot more headaches.”
Baltimore gave up 179 rushing yards in the first half in Kansas City, but once the Ravens made a shift in the formation of their defensive line, they stunted the Chiefs’ ground attack and allowed just 35 more yards.
By being elevated off the field, Pees is hoping to see problems for himself quicker. He has more of a bird’s eye view, allowing him to see entire blocking schemes, for example.
“You can see the whole field better,” Pees said. “You can see the backside of plays, you see the whole field.”
Now all the other defensive position coaches are on the field. Pees makes a call and relays it to Inside Linebackers Coach Don Martindale on the field, who then relays it to linebacker
Pees can still talk with individual position coaches to relay messages to players. If he needs to send a message to the entire unit, he can ask Head Coach John Harbaugh.
Harbaugh was pleased with how the change went over in Cleveland and the team will continue with Pees in the coaches box going forward.
“That was Dean’s idea. That’s something Dean talked about after the game down in Houston,” Harbaugh said. “It worked really well yesterday. The communication was very good."