John Harbaugh Expects Tweaks to Take Defense to 'Another Level'


For the first time in six years, the Ravens have a new defensive coordinator.

Wink Martindale took over the position in January when Dean Pees briefly retired, and then ultimately wound up taking the defensive coordinator job in Tennessee.

Martindale has spent the last six years in Baltimore coaching the linebackers, and now he'll have a chance to put his spin on the defensive system. That process has already started, as the Ravens have spent the last three months making some significant adjustments.

"I'm really excited about what we're going to do on defense," Harbaugh said. "I'm really excited to take it to another level in terms of the way the thing is built. We've been going to work on that as well."

Harbaugh didn't delve into the specific changes they're making, but coaches aren't in the business of making their playbooks public.

He did say that the fundamental system will remain intact. The Ravens aren't going through a drastic change like they did offensively when Gary Kubiak transformed the Ravens from a vertical passing team into a West Coast system.

Baltimore's defensive scheme has virtually stayed the same throughout the team's history, and the system is proven.

"From a schematic standpoint, the principles are remain, but the methods are going to change," Harbaugh said. "The Ravens defense to me is kind of iconic. It's historic. And it goes back before I got here. It goes back to 1996. It goes back to Ray Lewis, of course, and Ed Reed, and all those guys. Jarret Johnson. You can name all of the amazing players, and to me that's what the defense stands on."

A big difference in the system will likely be the approach on gameday. Coordinators make the play calls in terms of whether to blitz or play zone coverage, and Martindale has made it clear he expects to be more aggressive than Pees.

"I think it's my personality. I would rather attack than I would sit back," Martindale said when he was hired. "We're always going to try to be the aggressors and dictate the game to [opponents]."

The Ravens will begin implementing the system when the players return to Baltimore for offseason workouts this spring. 

"I can't wait to see our guys' faces when we present this scheme to them," Harbaugh said.

The Ravens have put much of their focus this offseason on upgrading offensive personnel, but expectations are still high for the defense. The Ravens have made major defensive investments through the draft and free agency the last few years, and Harbaugh believes the group's leaders are eager to deliver. 

Terrell Suggs, Eric Weddle, C.J. Mosley and Brandon Williams are all premier players, and Harbaugh has seen a major commitment from them to help make the group one of the league's best.

"Those guys are just incredible workers," Harbaugh said. "They want to be great. And that's why I'm excited about our whole team, but I'm really excited about our defense because we have some leadership that is genuine. They put their money where their mouth is, and those young guys can't help but fall in line."

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