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Players Enjoying Dean Pees' Aggressive Game Plans

Posted Sep 26, 2013

The Ravens defensive coordinator is having fun and getting creative with all his new weapons.


Imagine Dean Pees as a mad scientist.

He’s got all these new buttons to push in order to turn the Ravens defense into a monster.

He can bring in a heavy run-stopping defensive line. He can go with an all pass-rushers lineup. He can have three safeties on the field at the same time. The options are seemingly endless.

Pees has always enjoyed game planning. But this year it’s unique, he said.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Pees said. “I think it gets boring to me as a coach and I think it’s boring as a player if you go out and every week it’s the same dang-gone thing. ... You put in little tweaks here and there. I think the players like it, and I like it.”

Wondering how the Ravens defense hasn’t allowed a touchdown in the eight quarters? Some players have pointed to the man making the calls.

Last season, the Ravens were riddled by injuries along their defensive line, at linebacker and cornerback for much of the year. Pees’ hands were tied in many instances, as he shuffled pieces to cover where the team was hurting.

Now Pees has a relatively healthy arsenal full of depth and flexibility. He’s also got a bunch of new faces including linebacker Elvis Dumervil, defensive end Chris Canty, defensive tackle Marcus Spears and safety Michael Huff.

The trick is working all those pieces into the mix effectively, something Pees has been able to do.

For example, Baltimore has two starters on their depth chart at SAM linebacker with Courtney Upshaw and Dumervil. Each player has received about 40 snaps per game, a little more than half the action because they’re sometimes playing together.

“We’ve moved some guys all over the place,” Pees said. “Last year we did it out of necessity. This year we’re doing it because we want to be doing it.”

After Baltimore had a rough opening outing against Denver’s potent offense in Week 1, giving up a franchise-high 49 points and record seven touchdown passes to Peyton Manning, Pees said he had a “rough week.”

In Week 2, the Ravens wanted to get after Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden. The Browns had a weakened offensive line, so Pees dialed up the heat. Baltimore’s defense sacked Weeden five times, hit him 12 times and hurried him 23 times.

“You want guys getting after it and everybody's fighting for it, and I've got to say our Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees called one hell of a blitz,” outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “He mixed it up, just letting the guys get after it up front.”

In Week 3, Baltimore aimed to shut down Houston’s running duo of Arian Foster and Ben Tate and limit big plays. The Ravens didn’t surrender a single play of more than 20 yards. They held Foster and Tate to 90 yards rushing.

“It’s a testament to Dean Pees,” safety James Ihedigbo said. “He put together a great game plan for us. We showed them multiple looks on defense, a lot of guys moving around.”

Pees has shown the love back. He told his players that last Sunday’s win over the Houston Texans was one of the most gratifying wins in his entire career.

“I told the team that it wasn’t so much that we didn’t give up a touchdown,” he said. “It was that we played the game like it’s supposed to be played on defense.”

Pees said after the Denver loss that the Ravens’ goal was to be a top-10 defense. And despite a horrific stat line in the season-opening game, he was confident they still could be. Now the Ravens sit tied at No. 15, allowing 344.3 yards per game.

The next step is more turnovers.

The defense has recorded just one so far, an interception return for a touchdown by linebacker Daryl Smith last week. It’s something Pees said needs to increase if they're going to be a great defense. But with Pees’ aggressive mentality, those should come.

“He likes to get after guys and put pressure on the quarterback,” rookie safety Matt Elam said. “He likes to make the guys on the back end earn their money. He puts them man-to-man and lets the defensive line do their work. I love it. It gives us a lot of opportunities [for turnovers].”

The Ravens defense’s climb isn’t a surprise to the players. Even the new faces have quickly gained an appreciation for their coaches.

“This is one of the best defensive staffs I’ve been around as a whole,” Spears said. “I think all of the guys communicating well and being on the same page is a reflection of that.”

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