Dean Pees: Defense Has To Be Better Than Last Year


Last year's Super Bowl-winning defense is no more.

The Ravens' patented, Ray Lewis- and Ed Reed-lead defense is gone.

But could this season's unit be even better?

Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees said he would never compare the two, and specifically not during spring Organized Team Activities (OTAs). Comparisons are better left until after the games are played.

There's only one option for Pees.

"We have to be better than we were last year," he said.

"We were good in the playoffs – good enough – but we weren't good in the season for us to be the kind of defense that we want to be. We have to be better than we were a year ago. I'll put it that way. I don't know whether we will be, but we need to be."

Last season, the Ravens finished 17th in average yards allowed per game (350.9). It was the first time they dropped out of the top 10 since 2002. The Ravens were tied for 12th in points allowed per game (21.5).

There were countless reasons for the dip, largely centered around injuries. Reigning Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs missed the first six games, then wasn't the same after. Lewis was out for 10, and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata was banged up all year.

The unit struggled to stop the run, particularly at the start of the season. It also trailed off in the pass- rush department, recording just 37 sacks (tied for 15th).

So this offseason, Baltimore's defense underwent an extreme makeover – NFL addition.

It lost seven starters, then got younger and faster.

At inside linebacker, the Ravens drafted speedy rookie Arthur Brown, who has already been dubbed Lewis' successor by fans, in the second round.

At safety, Baltimore released Bernard Pollard and watched Reed go to the Texans. The Ravens signed veteran Michael Huff and drafted hard-hitting safety Matt Elam in the first round.

Up front, aging defensive tackle Ma'ake Kemoeatu was not re-signed. Baltimore signed two proven veterans, Marcus Spears and Chris Canty, and drafted burly Brandon Williams in the third round.

Pass rusher Paul Kruger bolted to Cleveland in free agency, but the Ravens got Pro Bowler Elvis Dumervil when a fax snafu made him available.

Now Pees is coaching what in many ways is a brand new defense.

"I think it's going to be different," Pees said. "It's always a different defense – a different defense every year. The difference is we lost some [stalwarts] that have been here for a long, long time."

But Pees said he's "very pleased" with what he's seen so far from the group as a whole. He specifically likes their attentiveness in the classroom and effort on the field.

"We still have a long ways to go as far as learning everything and knowing all the techniques and stuff like that," Pees said. "It's really a good group to work with. I feel good about the talent that we have."

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