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Rex Ryan, Greg Mattison, Chuck Pagano, Dean Pees.
Four defensive coordinators. Five years.
It’s been a relative merry-go-round in Baltimore, where defensive coordinators get cherry-picked for head coaching jobs. Ryan is in New York and, after one year, Pagano left for Indianapolis.
But that hasn’t changed the fact that the Ravens’ defense has remained one of the best in the NFL over that stretch. And players don’t expect that to change under new defensive coordinator Pees.
The attitude certainly hasn’t wavered.
“I’d have to say just play wild – just be you and just go out there and whoop somebody’s behind,” nose tackle Terrence Cody said when describing Pees’ personality.
The Ravens’ defense has ranked third, 10th, third, and third in the NFL in average yards allowed per game over the past four seasons, respectively.
Through that time, the scheme hasn’t changed all that much and neither have the stalwart players, with linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed leading the front and back, respectively, and Pro Bowl talent such as Terrell Suggs, and Haloti Ngata surrounding them.
“The defense here has been the staple the past 12 years. D.P. goes right along with that,” linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo said.
“He fits the Ravens’ motto of defense and the way we do things. It’s not going to be any different with Dean Pees. It’s really the personnel and the coaches that just make us better.”
Pees has been a part of running Baltimore’s system for the past two years, serving as the team’s linebackers coach. So the players, and particularly the linebackers, already have an understanding of his coaching style.
“He’s stepped in [and] it’s like he’s been here the whole time,” safety Bernard Pollard said. “Dean wants us to play hard and fast. And I think he doesn’t want to change the ‘Raven Way.’”
The defensive coordinator role is nothing new for Pees.
He served in that role for four years in New England, leading a unit that ranked sixth, fourth, 10th and 11th in the NFL in total defense, respectively. Since Pees left, the Patriots have had the 25th and 31st-ranked total defenses the past two years.
Now he’s next up in a lineage of great defensive coordinators that also includes Mike Nolan and Marvin Lewis. Four Ravens defensive coordinators have gone on to be head coaches.
The natural question is how Pees is different from his predecessors.
Pollard said Pees is just like Pagano in that he “wants to use all his weapons.” He will continue to mix and match players, giving everyone some time and best utilizing their strengths. As a linebacker’s coach, Pees stressed learning every position.
But Head Coach John Harbaugh doesn’t think in terms of comparisons.
He sees Pees establishing his own twist on the defense, saying they have added “a lot of good stuff” and are still very creative.
“I think that he will be Dean Pees. It’s his personality. It’s a unique style,” Harbaugh said.
“[He’s] a very detailed coach, very organized, very creative. He set the system up in a way that evolves a little bit and grows it and makes it, in some ways, easier to learn. Our guys are excited about that.”