Ravens Update

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 took over the Indianapolis Colts. 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 position."

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 Cory Redding. So far, Kruger has been occupying Suggs' spot at rush linebacker with Upshaw lining up at Johnson's old strongside linebacker position. The Ravens are also evaluating former second-round pick Sergio Kindle and special-teams standout Albert McClellan at outside linebacker. "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 overcome.

"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." Pees was the Patriots' defensive coordinator for four seasons, a successful run where the Patriots were the lone team in the league to rank in the top 10 in scoring defense each year. A former head coach at Kent State, Pees left New England following a 33-14 playoff loss to the Ravens where running back Ray Rice ran roughshod over the Patriots for 159 yards. Pees has consistently rumors that he was fired or that he left because of a medical condition that flared up when he had a bad reaction to asthma medicine.

"I decided not to go back there," Pees said earlier this year when he was promoted to defensive coordinator. "My contract was up. I didn't renew my contract. I was not fired, and I decided to explore other avenues. And this was a great avenue to explore."

Pees is expected to tinker with the defense, but major changes aren't afoot other than different personnel in the front seven.

A year ago, the Ravens ranked second in rushing defense as they allowed 92.6 yards on the ground per game, fourth in passing defense, allowing 196.3 yards a game, first in red-zone defense and third in scoring defense as they surrendered just 16.6 points per contest.

So, an overhaul isn't in the offing. "It's a system that has been proven, it's worked," Pees said. "So, I'm not going to come in and try to change that system. Am I going to try to put my personal touch on it? Yeah, I probably will without even knowing I'm putting my personal touch on it.

"I just think everybody calls a game differently, everybody sees a game differently, but yet, it's still going to be some of the same calls. Are we going to call them in the exact same time? Hey, I don't know. Everybody's got to put their own niche on it."

Pees has quickly made a believer out of the Ravens' defenders.

He consistently has the correct answer at his fingertips, something players have taken note of.

"He's so knowledgeable, so crafty," starting cornerback Cary Williams said. "He definitely brings another element to our game as far as what we're going to do on Sundays, the pressure and some of the zone coverages. It's going to be interesting to see what happens this year and how well we're going to flourish in the system. "I don't feel sorry for him and I don't think Dean feels sorry for himself, either. I think he sees it as an opportunity of a lifetime. We all see it as that. With the Patriots, he made do with what he had. We can't look back on those negative things, we have to push forward."

NOTES: The Ravens had much lighter attendance than last week.

That included absences for safety Ed Reed, cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Asa Jackson (school), safety Bernard Pollard, fullback Vonta Leach, linebackers Brendon Ayanbadejo, Lewis, Cody Glenn and Suggs, defensive tackles Haloti Ngata and Bryan Hall, defensive end Pernell McPhee, offensive guards Marshal Yanda and Jah Reid, offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie, running back Ray Rice (unsigned franchise player) and wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Rodney Bradley. ... Several starters attended the workout, including quarterback Joe Flacco, wide receiver Torrey Smith, tight end Ed Dickson, offensive tackle Michael Oher, center Matt Birk, defensive end Arthur Jones, inside linebacker Jameel McClain, outside linebackers Courtney Upshaw and Paul Kruger, cornerback Lardarius Webb, kicker Billy Cundiff and punter Sam Koch. Birk wasn't at last week's workout.

Cornerback Cary Williams (hip surgery) and wide receiver David Reed (knee surgery) were present, but didn't practice.

Williams said his recovery is going well and he's on target to participate in individual drills at the Ravens' mandatory minicamp next month. "I'm working hard, I'm doing what I'm supposed to do as far as my rehab and taking it to another level," Williams said. "I push myself to the limit. I'll be out there doing individuals, doing a little more running, more cutting hopefully. I see the doctor Friday. Hopefully, I come out of there with some good news." Rookie offensive guard Kelechi Osemele didn't practice Wednesday due to an undisclosed injury. Osemele and Harbaugh didn't indicate what the nature of his injury was, but Harbaugh downplayed it, saying: "He's fine." ...

While rookie kicker Justin Tucker is now officially on the roster after being signed Tuesday following his rookie minicamp tryout, former Pro Bowl kicker Billy Cundiff is the clear favorite to retain his job.

Harbaugh indicated that Tucker will compete with Cundiff during training camp. "He has done nothing to make us think that he can't handle that competition," Harbaugh said. "There is always competition. Billy obviously has the edge, but everybody is fighting for their job."

Tucker connected on a 55-yard field goal during his tryout. The undrafted free agent hit 40 of 48 career field goals at the University of Texas, including a game-winner last fall over archrival Texas A&M.

"It feels great to be back and keep chasing the dream," Tucker said. "I'm here and I'm ready to work. All I can do is put my best foot forward and do my best to impress coaches, my teammates and make a good second first impression.

"I'm learning new stuff every day, whether it's really small or a schematic thing, I'm always learning. I feel like all I can do is be me and do what I do. I've put in a lot of hard work, a lot of training, a lot of mental focus into trying to perfect different aspects of my technique."...

Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron praised wide receivers LaQuan Williams and Tandon Doss. In particular, Williams had a sharp practice. Offensive tackle Ramon Harewood has missed the past two seasons on injured reserve for various knee problems.

Now, he's displaying obvious signs of rust as he was penalized multiple times for holding and false starts.

"I've got no issues, no injuries," Harewood said. "I got to work on the mental aspect of it. Physically, I think I'm there. Mentally, it's an adjustment, all the little things that come with practicing." ...

Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg indicated that Jacoby Jones, who had a rough day catching the football at wide receiver Wednesday, is a candidate to return kickoffs and punts. Jones didn't return kickoffs last season for the Houston Texans.

"He's really fast," Rosburg said. "I knew that before, but I'd never seen it quite up close as I have. I did know he was fast, what I didn't know is how hard of a worker he is and what a good teammate he is. We have a guy now that's been successful, has experience being a returner.

"He's got a lot of different skills, but the thing that stands out is he understands how fast he is. He's able to draw people in and then beat them. Some guys are fast, but don't know how to use their speed. Jacoby's fast and he knows how to use his speed."

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