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How Zach Orr Plans to Keep the Ravens Defense on Top

From left: ILB Roquan Smith, S Geno Stone, S Kyle Hamilton
From left: ILB Roquan Smith, S Geno Stone, S Kyle Hamilton

Days into his new job as the Ravens' defensive coordinator, Zach Orr is so busy that he has yet to move into his new, bigger office. Good thing it has a pull-out couch and the 31-year-old has a seemingly boundless energy and work ethic.

This week, Orr is interviewing coaching candidates to fill out the vacancies on his staff. Once that's done, he'll dive into self-scouting, breaking down last year's defense and formulating with his staff how the scheme will evolve under his leadership.

After the Ravens defense became the first in NFL history to finish atop the league in points allowed per game, sacks, and takeaways under Mike Macdonald, who departed for a head coaching gig in Seattle, it won't be easy for Orr to repeat that success. But that's the aim, and the Ravens are confident Orr is the right person for the job.

It starts with a vision. As he puts his stamp on a Ravens defense that won't change as much as continue to evolve, Orr knows what he wants it to stand for. He presented it like a checklist during his introductory press conference Tuesday.

Playing as one: "I want our defense to play together first and foremost – 11 people playing as one."

Violent: "I want it to be violent – very violent, physical. That's just the standard here. Everything we're going to do is going to be with physicality and violence."

Execution: "Executing at a high level, executing in certain situations, executing all the time."

Organized chaos: "Present a lot of problems to the offense. Never give the answer to the offense before the snap."

Then comes hiring. Orr must first fill his coaching vacancies: defensive line (replacing Anthony Weaver), defensive backfield (Dennard Wilson), and linebacker (himself). He's already been leading interviews and working in conjunction with Head Coach John Harbaugh on building out the staff. Doug Mallory, previously of the University of Michigan, has already reportedly been added as a defensive backs coach.

Once the staff is together, they'll dive into the scheme. Schematically, Orr said not much will change, just as it didn't totally change under his predecessor.

"We definitely want to build on that. That's a scheme that we helped build here for years," Orr said. "We're always looking to get better. I think that's why you've seen great defenses here in the past. That's what we've got to continue."

The next part is more out of Orr's hands, but will present another challenge. Just like on the coaching staff, the Ravens will likely need to fill some starting spots in the defense, too. Pro Bowlers Patrick Queen and Justin Madubuike are pending unrestricted free agents, as are outside linebackers Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy and safety Geno Stone. There's 35 sacks and eight interceptions on that list.

Orr knows that Macdonald and the 2023 Ravens defense set the bar high. But he doesn't shy away from trying to clear it.

"One thing I've always lived by is you never stay the same. You either get better or you get worse," Orr said. "Last year was a great year. The thing we did last year was we went through the process.

"We started in the offseason around this time of year – self scouted, looked what we did well, looked what we could build on. Led by Coach 'Harbs', the thing he pushes us to do as coaches is to be in front of things. You want to be cutting edge, always want to evolve and always want to be ready for the next thing the offense may present. So, we're going to get in the lab this offseason."

Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker coach Zach Orr answers questions during a news conference after the NFL football teams practice, Wednesday, June 8, 2022, in Owings Mills, Md.

577: Zach Orr on the Mindset His Defense Will Have, Going from Player to Coach, and His 'Wild' Journey

Ravens Defensive Coordinator Zach Orr joins Ryan Mink and Garrett Downing to talk about how he landed his new job, what he envisions for his defense, the sudden end to his playing career, and how that motivated him as a coach.

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