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Ravens Defensive Coordinator Chuck Pagano isn’t afraid to talk the talk.
In his first training camp press conference, he proclaimed the Ravens have a defense that can “dominate people” and said they aim for a shutout every time they walk out of the tunnel.
He’s walked the walk too.
In the preseason, Pagano said he would run a “vanilla” defense, yet players said he couldn’t help himself from blitzing the heck out of opponents. Through three regular-season games, the Ravens have been equally as chaotic.
Not only do they rank atop the NFL in scoring (13.1 points allowed per game), they’ve recovered an NFL-high five fumbles and are tied for second in interceptions with five. Baltimore, who set a franchise-low in sacks last year, is tied for seventh with nine so far this season.
Sound like a familiar defense led by a familiar defensive coordinator?
“How do you compare Chuck and Rex?” Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis asked himself. “I think they’re very similar.”
New York Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan coached defense for 10 years in Baltimore, including four as the defensive coordinator from 2005-2008.
After Ryan left, the Ravens defense remained ranked among the NFL’s top units under Greg Mattison. But, it had a different personality than the one Ryan fostered and Pagano has re-established.
Part of it can be traced back to the two men’s personalities.
“Both of them are very fiery,” Lewis said. “And I think [there are] a lot of similarities because both of them are player-coaches. They really relate to their players and things like that. I don’t really know a difference because both Rex and Chuck are very outgoing. Both of them are very outgoing.”
Another part of it is that Pagano climbed up the Ryan coaching tree.
Pagano was Ryan’s secondary coach for one year in 2008. He also worked with Ryan’s twin brother, Rob, for two years in Oakland in 2005 and 2006. Pagano was the defensive backs coach and Rob was the defensive coordinator.
“Coming from a football family, they’re a wealth of knowledge there from a football and schematic standpoint and those type of things,” Pagano said.
Like Ryan, Pagano has shown he’s not afraid to bring a safety or a cornerback off the edge – from Bernard Pollard, to Lardarius Webb, and a host of other players.
He also gives the Ravens flexibility, as Lewis attested to. Pagano has already dropped defensive tackle Haloti Ngata in coverage this year, for example.
But there are some differences – particularly in just how “aggressive” each coach is willing to be.
Ravens outside linebacker Jarret Johnson said Rex is “more emotional” with his calls. He’ll call an all-out blitz right after getting torched just because he’s angry, Johnson said.
“I don’t think anybody is as aggressive as him,” Pagano said with a laugh.
“I would say I am [more aggressive],” Ryan said. “His roots are more in the secondary than mine are. … He’s probably less likely to hang his guys out in the secondary than I am.”