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Eric Weddle Has Had A Ray Lewis-Like Effect On Defense


As Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees goes through the game plan in weekly meetings, it's not uncommon for a voice to pipe up with questions and suggestions.

The man is one of the newest members of the defense. He sits in the front row, just to Pees' right, and holds a big comb, which he uses to brush his scraggly, red-tinged beard.

That man is Ravens safety Eric Weddle – who is now jokingly called "Coach Weddle" by his teammates.

The Ravens defense has been looking for more leaders since Ray Lewis and Ed Reed left following the 2012 Super Bowl XLVII title. Weddle has proven to be just the man for the job.

"He's just so in tune," Pees said. "He is like Ray and those guys from the standpoint, for the young guys, here's a veteran taking notes. … He's very, very smart [and] knowledgeable."

Pees said that when he starts laying out the game plan on Tuesday's, Weddle can already tell him what the opponent's tendencies are in certain formations. He's already done the studying himself.

It's not just coaches who see it.

"He came in a natural-born leader," defensive tackle Brandon Williams said this week. "He came in the first day and it was his team."

So do players often make suggestions in meetings?

"Sometimes," Williams said. "Well, not really."

Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs leads in his own way with swagger and attitude. He also takes copious notes in meetings, as Ravens coaches noticed when Suggs took a break from a meeting recently. His notebook was covered in his handwriting.

Suggs is the last member remaining from the old guard of dominant Ravens defense, and he takes it upon himself to pass the torch. Now he has more help.

Though he's only been a Ravens for 6 1/2 months, Weddle has already become part of that special group.

"I like his veteran leadership," Suggs said this week. "I like that he is kind of a wild card. He is 'one of those guys.' The word that comes to mind is 'Raven.' He has kind of that Raven persona."

Weddle said he was welcomed in Baltimore from the minute he arrived, as if he had been a Raven his whole life. Over the last several months, he said countless times that it feels that way.

At the same time, Weddle didn't want to rub the other leaders the wrong way, so he simply dove into his own work and let the relationships build organically, he said.

But it quickly became clear that he was going to speak his mind and share the knowledge he gained over the past 10 years in San Diego, including three Pro Bowl seasons.

"I think it caught them off guard with how much I was willing to help them and teach them and give them anything I have learned over the years that has helped me get to where I'm at," Weddle said. "Once they kind of knew it wasn't a facade or a front I was putting up, it made us even closer."

Safety Lardarius Webb has been soaking up knowledge from Weddle, especially as he's made the transition from cornerback to safety. Webb said Weddle calls out what the offense is going to do before it happens, just like Lewis and Reed used to do.

"He's like the quarterback of the defense," Webb said. "He keeps us all in place."

In Sunday's 19-17 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Ravens defense sealed the game when Webb tipped a deep pass down the middle and second-year undrafted linebacker Zachary Orr came down with the interception.

It's no coincidence that the Ravens already have five interceptions this season – one fewer than Baltimore's defense logged all last year. Weddle has one himself* *too.

"He really is a coach on the field," Orr said. "He is constantly talking to all of us. Not just to me, but C.J. [Mosley] as well and other DBs. He is just constantly reminding us, little tips [such as], 'get your depth here, this is what they like to do.' In the heat of battle, it is great to have someone like that. We love having him back there, and it doesn't hurt that he is a playmaker as well."

Pees said Thursday that the Ravens defense is better because it's giving up fewer big plays. A large part of that is communication, especially on the back end of the unit.

It's not just on the field that Weddle communicates. He prides himself on being the first player in the building, and he wants to share his findings with his teammates.

"They just weren't really used to a guy not only loving the game, but willing to help and willing to be there for them," Weddle said. "I don't know how it has been in the past, but everywhere I have been, I try to lead more for the guys that I have played with than for myself. I want them to know as much as I know myself."

The crazy thing is, Weddle could have been playing on the other sideline this Sunday. He's good friends with Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, who recruited him heavily to come to Oakland during free agency. Weddle is a West Coast kid and was accustomed to life in the AFC West, so it was tempting.

Now Weddle will be trying to lead the Ravens' No. 2-ranked defense against Carr's No. 2-ranked offense. The Raiders posted 37 points and 448 yards of offense against Baltimore last year, but that was before the Ravens had Weddle.

"Talented team, tough, physical. We are extremely excited for the challenge and the matchup," Weddle said. "Those guys over there wanted me. But I was meant to be a Raven, that's for sure."

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