Pees takes the reins of Ravens' defense
The Sports Xchange
Dean Pees doesn't have the heft, stature or
swagger of Rex Ryan, or the animated, fiery style of Chuck Pagano.
The Baltimore Ravens' latest defensive coordinator
doesn't lack the voice of his predecessors, though, bellowing out
instructions with plenty of volume and authority.
"You can probably tell my voice carries out there
on the field quite a bit," Pees said Wednesday following an organized
team activity practice at team headquarters. "I don't really need
signals. I could probably yell it in."
Known for his cerebral approach and meticulous
film study, Pees, 62, was promoted from linebackers coach when Pagano
was named the Indianapolis Colts' head coach.
Now, the former New England Patriots defensive
boss inherits the NFL's third-ranked defense from a year ago.
Pees has already made it clear that he won't be
making major changes to an aggressive 3-4 scheme, but he's leaving his
own specific imprint on the defense.
"Dean is distinctive," coach John Harbaugh said.
"If you talk to the players, they will tell you that. He definitely has
his own style. He is forceful, obviously. He is very confident.
"He has been doing this a long time. He is really
creative. He is one of the better teachers I have ever seen as a coach.
Obviously, the proof is going to be in the pudding, but we are excited
about where we are going on defense."
As the sixth defensive coordinator in franchise
history, following Pagano, Greg Mattison, Ryan, Mike Nolan and Marvin Lewis, Pees is immediately facing several challenges.
Most notably, the defending AFC North champions
could be without the services of NFL Defensive Player of the Year
outside linebacker Terrell Suggs for at least a major portion of, if
not the entire season due to a partially torn Achilles tendon.
Plus, All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis, 37, and
All-Pro free safety Ed Reed, 33, are another year older and coming off
seasons where they dealt with injuries.
"As a coach, you've got to go out there and coach
the guys you have here," Pees said. "We would like the situation with
Terrell to be different, but unfortunately it's not. It's not the first
time in my career we've had a good player miss time or a whole season.
I remember in New England when they told me Tedy Bruschi had a stroke.
"It wasn't the exact words I wanted to hear about
my starting linebacker, but we put in somebody else: Mike Vrabel. I'm
not saying he was great at it, but we had schemes and things we could
do until Bruschi came back. It will be the same thing with Terrell.
We'll have guys in place, and we'll do things that we need to do until
he gets back."
In the case of Bruschi seven years ago when Pees
was coaching the Patriots' linebackers, New England didn't defend its
Super Bowl crown. They did win the AFC East division title again.
"What you do is you've still got to install the
defense," Pees said. "You've still got to find out who can play the
position. I don't think that we're not going to show up next fall. So,
the thing of it is somebody's got to step up. Somebody's got to take
his spot. You try to find out who's going to be the best fit at that
Pees is breaking in two new starting outside
linebackers in rookie Courtney Upshaw and Paul Kruger and a new
starting left defensive end with the departures of Jarret Johnson and
So far, Kruger has been occupying Suggs' spot at
rush linebacker with Upshaw lining up at Johnson's old strong-side
The Ravens are also evaluating former second-round
pick Sergio Kindle and special-teams standout Albert McClellan at
"I've been very, very pleased with Kruger," Pees
said. "Albert has done a good job outside. Sergio has shown a lot of
improvement, and Courtney Upshaw has been doing a good job."
Nonetheless, replacing Suggs' production of 14
sacks and seven forced fumbles is going to be a tough obstacle to
"It's just like last year when we lost Ray for
four games," Pees said. "Did we change the package? Some. You tweak it
a little bit, you don't really change it. You've got enough stuff
hopefully within your package that if something happens to somebody you
can go to somebody else that'll really kind of play to their strengths."
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