It’s still early, but the first impressions of Wink Martindale’s revamped Ravens defensive system is two thumbs up from a couple of its star players.
Safety Eric Weddle and inside linebacker C.J. Mosley – the leaders in the middle and back end of the defense – are both pumped about the possibilities.
“He’s bringing in a lot of different elements that we haven’t had,” Weddle said Wednesday on Day 2 of the team’s voluntary offseason workouts. “For us, as players, it’s exciting.”
Martindale was promoted after Dean Pees retired, then un-retired, immediately following last season. Pees was the Ravens’ coordinator for six seasons and now holds the same job with the Tennessee Titans.
Ravens players were excited for Martindale because they know how hard he’s worked to get back in that play-calling saddle. Martindale had a rough one-year stint as the Denver Broncos defensive coordinator in 2010.
Now he’s getting a second chance after serving as a linebackers coach in Baltimore for the past six seasons. Martindale has been locked in at the Under Armour Performance Center this offseason working to put his stamp on Baltimore’s defensive system.
The fundamentals and ideals of the system won’t change, but Mosley said the schemes and verbiage are different.
“There’s a lot of stuff that is kind of the same, but the schemes are different, the verbiage is* *a little different,” Mosley said. “He said it’s pretty much going to be our playbook. The more we put into it, the better we’ll be with the new differences.”
What has Weddle most excited is that Martindale is giving the players more freedom to respond to what they’re seeing on the field. But with great power comes great responsibility.
“It’s a challenge for us to go over new things, new terminology, and things that will give us the ability to react and change on the fly – and not be so blackboard defense, black and white, this is what we do versus this,” Weddle said.
“We are able to, when it gets to the season, be able to change on the fly to put us in the best position possible, which will help us in the long run to be able to finish and be the best defense possible.”
For example, Weddle said he could change responsibilities with Mosley, or even with a defensive tackle or defensive end based on what he sees from the offense. Now he can communicate to them a change in plans before the snap.
“It’s able to give the players more responsibility, because we have a lot of guys who are intellectually high. They understand football; they understand the game,” Weddle said. “Coach [Martindale] is giving us the tools.”
Both Weddle and Mosley said it’s going to take time for the players to be confident and comfortable switching things up on the field. Fortunately, the players doing the communicating are largely the same.
The draft could still change things, but the Ravens are projected to have the same starting 11 – or very close to it – at the beginning of this season as they did last year. The defense’s biggest free agent, defensive end Brent Urban, was the first player the team re-signed this offseason.
“We have everyone back, and we can build off of what we did well last year and what we didn’t do well,” Weddle said. “This gives us an extra season together to continue to mold and build the repertoire of what we want to be. We took strides last year.”
Last season, the Ravens finished 12th in the NFL in total defense and allowed the sixth-fewest points per game (18.9). They led the league in turnovers (34) and interceptions (22).
As part of this year’s goals, Weddle said the defense wants to get the interception-to-touchdown ratio down, cut down on big plays allowed, keep quarterbacks’ completion percentage under 60 percent and quarterback rating at 70 or below.
“Those are the goals that we’re setting out to try to be the best in the league,” Weddle said.