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Ravens Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison knows full well that Baltimore has forever been known for stomping out the run.
And there's a good reason why that's the case. The Ravens not only take pride in that fact, but they practice it every day, constantly perfecting every aspect.
Now Mattison is taking that same approach to pass rushing, a category where the Ravens haven't been as dominant over the past couple of years.
Mattison said the Ravens will spend just as much time practicing pressure this offseason and through 2010 as they do working on stopping the run – and it will include every defensive player, not just the defensive linemen or linebackers.
"We'll find the time, whether it's staying after, starting early, during kicking; whatever it is, that time will be put in the same way it has in the run," Mattison said. "Now we'll have the run part of it as good as its always been and now the pass rush, you'll see the benefits of that also."
The Ravens ranked 18th in the NFL with 32 team sacks last year, led by defensive end Trevor Pryce's 6.5. In 2008 they were tied for 11th with 34. Back in 2006, when Pryce notched 13 sacks himself, the Ravens ranked second in the league with 61 sacks.
Mattison said during the season and again this week that rushers need to win more one-on-one battles with blockers in order to get to the quarterback. Mattison almost always rushes at least four players, which means at least three or four players are one-on-one against a five-man offensive line.
If the Ravens could get more pressure by rushing just four defenders – instead of regularly blitzing – Mattison could leave more players in coverage, which may be a necessity considering how pass-happy opposing NFL offenses have become.
"I think it's more a mindset we have to have," Mattison said. "It's more our film study and critiquing ourselves, saying that for us to take the next step, we have to be a better pass rush team. That means when you are one-on-one with a guy you've got to beat him, whether you're blitzing or just rushing four [players].
"If [a player] ever gets blocked on a run, he knows that wasn't good. It's got to be the same thing on a pass. If you get blocked one-on-one on a pass, that's not good."
The Ravens already took several steps to win more of those battles earlier this offseason. They first hired Linebackers Coach Dean Pees. Baltimore also brought in Outside Linebackers Coach Ted Monachino to work with the hybrid defensive end/linebackers, including Terrell Suggs. That means Mattison, who oversaw that position last year, will have more time to work with all the positions.
Personnel-wise, the Ravens lost defensive end Dwan Edwards, who notched one sack last year and two during his five-year career. They added defensive tackleCory Redding, who had two sacks in 2009 and 18 during his seven-year career.
Linebacker/defensive endPaul Kruger is actively trying to add bulk to make a move to the defensive line next year. The Ravens could always select another pass-rusher in April's draft, but Mattison doesn't think it's a necessity.
"We feel we have the players here that can be outstanding pass rushers," Mattison said. "Now we just have to put the emphasis on it more."
Coaching individual players on their pass rush began Tuesday during football school. Monachino said he's working from the ground up.
Pre-snap coaching comes first – reading run versus pass plays and adjusting defensive alignment. Then, it's on to stances and getting a good jump on snaps. Lastly, coaches will move to players' upper body to improve how they maneuver with their hands and get better leverage.
"Saving one step or attacking on a little different angle, those things are going to lead to more plays," Monachino said. "That's the difference between a pressure and a sack, a sack and a sack-fumble. Those are the hairs we're trying to split."
The Ravens aren't necessarily trying to add more pass-rush moves, however.
"If you have a lot of pass rush moves then really you probably don't have any," Defensive Line Coach Clarence Brooks said. "You need to have something you can do well and some way to counter off of that. It's not quantity, it's quality."
Therefore, Brooks said he's spending a lot of time defining what the current Ravens like to do and do well to try to put them in situations where they can best use their unique talents.
"I just try to do stuff like Trevor," defensive tackleHaloti Ngatasaid with a laugh. "Trevor's a great example of how to pass rush. He's just so long and skinny that he can get through cracks. I'm more of a big guy and I can't fit through those cracks.
"I think I focused so much on stopping the run early in my career when I was in college that it's harder to adjust to pass rushing. So there's definitely stuff I can improve, and I'm happy Mattison is trying to help the pass rush."