Dean Pees: Defense Only Tweaked Without Terrell Suggs


Of course, Dean Pees wishes Terrell Suggs hadn't torn his Achilles tendon.

But that's the lot the Ravens' new defensive coordinator is dealing with, like it or not.

And it's not like he hasn't dealt with a major injury to a star player before.

Pees still remembers being told in February of 2005 that linebacker Tedy Bruschi had a stroke. He was the New England Patriots' linebackers coach at the time.

"Those weren't exactly the words that I wanted to hear [about] my starting Mike 'backer," Pees said after Wednesday's OTA practice.

"Mike Vrabel, who had never even played outside 'backer, ended up playing Mike for us. I'm not saying he was great at it, but we had schemes and things that we could do until Bruschi came back. It will be the same thing with Terrell."

Thus, Suggs' injury isn't throwing Pees off his tracks.

The Ravens defense has no choice but to move on, and Pees is making minor tweaks to fit his Suggs-less personnel for however long the reigning Defensive Player of the Year is out.

He's still installing the same overall defense, and will be gauging in OTAs who is best prepared to take over.

"You've still got to find out who can play the position," Pees said. "Somebody's got to step up, somebody's got to take his spot."

The Ravens have a few good options. Paul Kruger learned behind Suggs for three years, has a college pedigree of stopping the run and flashed his pass-rushing skills last year with 5.5 sacks.

During the practices open to the media, Kruger has been the one primarily stepping into Suggs' role.

Top draft pick Courtney Upshaw played the same position in college and has a similarly very physical style of play. Pees, having previously coached with Alabama's Nick Saban, has been using some of the same language with Upshaw to help him adjust to the Ravens scheme's terminology.

Pees also named outside linebacker Albert McClellan and Sergio Kindle as possible candidates.

Once there's a player in place, Pees said he will "tweak" the scheme, just as the Ravens did last year when middle linebacker Ray Lewis missed four games with a toe injury.

What Pees will look to do is adapt the Ravens' package to suit the player that steps in.

"You tweak it a little bit, you don't really change it," Pees said. "You try to find everybody's strengths; you try to play to their strengths. What might be different for another outside backer might be different than it was for Suggs."

But will the Ravens be able to generate as much pressure?

Baltimore led the AFC with 48 sacks last year and Suggs was the ringleader with a career-high 14. Pees was asked whether he'll need to blitz more without his leading sack artist.

"If I was, I wouldn't tell you," he said, inciting laughter. "Everything always affects scheme. Everything does. But the difference is a little bit. If you have a big package, then there's usually enough stuff within that package that you can change from week-to-week."

The Patriots' 2005 defense, with Bruschi playing in only nine games, finished ranked 26th in the league. Pees took over as defensive coordinator the next year and the unit leapt to sixth.

In 2008 under Pees, New England went 11-5 and allowed 19.3 points per game, despite using 22 different starters on defense, including four rookies.

It's just another year for Pees dealing with injuries.

"We'll have guys in place, and we'll do things that we need to do until [Suggs] gets back," Pees said. "And when he gets back, we probably won't change a whole lot."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content