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Dean Pees is getting settled in to his new office as the Ravens defensive coordinator, and his task over the next few months is finding ways to improve a unit that was already one of the NFL’s best.
“No matter how good you were,” Pees said, “you’re going to try to improve in every area.”
Pees, who took over when Chuck Pagano became the Colts head coach, is in the early stages of assessing personnel and determining the areas the Ravens can clean up this offseason.
The Ravens former linebackers coach is planning to re-watch every play from the previous season to get a better sense of where the defense needs to improve, but the one point Pees already knows for certain is there is no need for any significant makeovers.
“There aren’t a lot of changes that we want to make to this defense,” Pees said.
The Ravens ranked in the top five in just about every defensive category, had four players – Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata – selected to the Pro Bowl and featured the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year (Suggs).
“We’ve just got to keep building on the things we did during the season,” Pees said.
When talking about what the Ravens did well this season, Pees pointed to two specific areas: stopping teams on third downs and keeping opponents from scoring touchdowns once they got into the red zone.
“Last year we spent a lot of time in the offseason trying to get those improved and they did improve,” Pees said.
The Ravens held opponents to a 32.1 percent conversion rate on third downs, which ranked second best in the league. The previous season, teams had a 38 percent third-down conversion rate against Baltimore, ranking 15th.
In the red zone, the Ravens were even better.
Teams scored touchdowns against the Ravens just 38.1 percent of the time once they got inside the 20-yard line, the lowest percentage in the league.
Success in both of those situations, Pees said, comes from stopping the run, a trademark of Baltimore’s defenses over the years.
“The Ravens have always had a tradition of being an aggressive, tough, hard-nosed defense that could stop the run and never gave up a lot points,” Pees said.
“I know it’s a passing league and all that stuff, but you can see a team throw for 400 yards and still lose a game. There’s not many games where you see somebody run for like 150-160 yards and still lose a game.”
The key to stopping the run is having a strong front seven, and the Ravens have some questions in that department as linebackers Jarret Johnson, Jameel McClain and Brendon Ayanbadejo and defensive end Cory Redding are all unrestricted free agents.
Regardless of whether they return next season, Pees’ focus for now remains unchanged.
For him, the next several weeks are all about going back through the season and looking for any chinks in the Ravens’ armor, and trying to find ways to ensure their success continues into next season.
“We’re going to analyze it, say what was good about it, what was bad about it, what can improve, how we can improve it.” Pees said. “Even when you do things really well, you still look at things and say maybe we could do it just a little bit better.”