Q&A with Ravens DC Dean Pees

Dean Pees spoke to the media about Courtney Upshaw's versatility, coaching from the press box and how Baltimore's run defense continues to improve.

Question: We saw Courtney [Upshaw] play a little inside this past game. Is that something to look for moving forward, or is that something for maybe just now as you tweak the defense moving forward?

Dean Pees:"You saw him in there when we were in sub. You didn't see him in there when we were in regular defense, so he was still an outside ‘backer. That's always something in sub. All those guys have kind of learned to play inside, outside – trying to put the best guys on the field based on the situation – like we talked about before, maybe where we can put guys to utilize them the best. It was more of a sub thing than it was anything in regular defense."

Q: He has a skill set that he can do both, though?

DP"Most ‘backers do. This is not really something new. There are other teams that do it. I've done it in the past a lot. I've played defense … I played a Super Bowl one year with five linebackers in the game and four DBs the entire game. You just try to put them in a spot. You aren't going to try to put them in there where there's going to be a lot of power football and stuff like that. But, if you can figure out the situations and maybe based on their personnel – how to match up best – a lot of guys could do it."

Q: Coach Harbaugh addressed you being upstairs for the game and said that it was your idea. Can you talk a little bit about what went into that decision and why you wanted to give that a try?

DP:"I've done both. This isn't something that, ‘Oh geez, I'm going to try this.' I've probably – as a coordinator in 25 years – spent 12 years in the box and 13 down or something. It's not something that was new to me. What I felt was – after the bye week – I just felt like there is some information sometimes that I maybe could utilize a little quicker when making adjustments and making some calls. You can, obviously, see the game better from the press box. The other thing is it actually speeds up some of the calls, because for an example, if you are standing on the sidelines and they run the ball, I can't really tell if they gained two or four or five yards, really, until someone upstairs tells me that. That means that there is a little delay.

"When I'm in the press box and I see the run and it has gained two yards and it's second-and-8, I know right now. All my calls, a lot of times, are based on down and distance and all that kind of stuff. You can see things. Sometimes I can't tell if the ball is on the hash or in the middle of the field exactly. That speeds things up a little bit. The other thing is you can maybe see some technique things that you can't see on the sidelines if the play is away from you. You can usually see if there is a breakdown if it's a play to you. But on a play away, sometimes you can't always see it. And the thing of it is I can't ask right away, because I'm on to the next call, whereas if you get upstairs, sometimes you can see that. I can at least keep it in my mind; I saw it and I can make a note in between series, and I can relay it down to the coaches. The downside of it is that you don't have quite the one-on-one rapport with the players on the sideline talking to them coming off the field. But, if you noticed what we did was the entire staff was down. I was the only one up. I felt like every position was covered. [It was] different than a lot of other times, [because] you might have half the staff up and half the staff down.

"Coach [Don] Martindale was down there for the inside linebackers. Coach [Ted] Monachino was down there for the outside linebackers. ‘C.B.' [Clarence Brooks] was down for the D-line, and ‘T.A.' [Teryl Austin] was down for the secondary. The entire staff was down there, and I have communication with all four of them, so I could pass along information to the entire group or to any specific group and get it taken care of right away. We thought, ‘Hey, let's take a look at it.' Like I said, I've done it before, so it wasn't a big deal going to the press box necessarily for me. Really the staff, we thought it worked out pretty well."

Q: Speaking about that communication aspect, Jameel [McClain] has been wearing the headset for a couple of games now. How do you think that transition is going for him?

DP:"It's going real well. He's worn it before. In preseason he has worn it. In preseason you don't have to have one; you can have multiple headsets, because you are practicing. That's what preseason is for. So, most of the time during preseason, even if Ray [Lewis] was in there, he had the headset, too. When Ray came out – Jameel usually stayed a little bit longer – and he had the headset. That's been going fine."

Q: We're talking a lot about versatility in some of the players. I remember when Jameel [McClain] first got here. He played some inside and some outside. What is the tipoff as to whether a guy can play more than one spot?

DP: "First of all, does he have the athletic skills to do it? I'll go back to what an old coach told me: First of all, does the guy have the size and the speed and the skills to play a position? That's the first thing that you always look at any – whether it's offense or defense – [is] can a guy physically have the tools to do it? That's the No. 1 thing you have to look at. Second of all, does he have the knowledge? Is it going to be too much if you start moving him around, which it is for some guys. Sometimes you move guys around that play multiple positions – it's too much for certain guys. That doesn't mean that they aren't really good football players; they just can't really switch around. It's like ‘Double J' [Jarret Johnson] coming here a defensive lineman in college [and then] going to linebacker. I can name 100 guys that have been like that. They end up playing a different position, but then the other part of that is that at some point in time you have to try to experiment and see if they can do it. You may think they can do to it, but that doesn't mean that they can. Then you experiment and try it, and if it works, great, and if it doesn't, then doesn't. Just like Albert McClellan – we have tried him at both. ‘Mac' [Jameel McClain] can really probably play both. There are different guys that can do it."

Q: When you look at the Raiders, they are known for drafting really good athletes and speed merchants. Do you see that when you look at this team?

DP:"Oh yes. They are fast. I wrote down on the bottom of the board this morning, I said, ‘Do not underestimate anybody's speed.' When you play the Raiders, they are going to look good getting off the bus, and they are going to be fast getting off the bus. They are always a fast football team. They've always been that way, and they will continue to be that way. They are a very fast football team."

Q: Carson Palmer now 32, 33 years old. What do you see in him? Is he the same player he was four or five years ago?

DP:"Yes, I think he is, because I actually … We don't have a lot of background watching the Raiders a whole lot. It seems like even in crossover films we don't really get them for whatever reason a whole lot. When I was going to look at it … When I first thought about it this week when I started looking at them, I thought ‘OK, I will probably see a quarterback that has probably diminished a little bit.' I don't see it. I don't see it. I saw a guy throw a 15-yard comeback from the opposite hash, which he has done before. He stands in the pocket. He stands tall. He delivers the ball. I don't see a lot of difference in Carson Palmer now than when we used to play him."

Q: Dean, your thoughts on the run stop defense in this game versus the other games earlier in the year? And then Cary Williams getting his fourth interception and then Ed Reed getting No. 60 [of his career]?

DP: "Are you talking about back on the Browns, talking about the pass? (Reporter: "Yes.") We were better against the run except for really two plays; and the one really bothered me because we had him stopped for no gain and it was his longest gain of the day – I think a 17- or 19-yarder where he bounced out – and we got it stopped for absolutely nothing and we just weren't patient on the edge. We jumped off a block inside and he bounced out, and when he does that, that's a bad guy, and I think we missed a tackle which gained five more. So, up until that point it was pretty good. And then we had one, kind of a technique error inside. But overall, I thought we played better – not good enough – but better than we have played. It was great seeing Cary get a pick, especially it was nice having it right after we just dropped a pick the play before, so it was good.

"And I give Cary a lot of credit on that, because that was a boot one-way, throwback pass over the other way, and he stayed at home and it paid off. Guy made not a great throw, I might add, but at the same time, we were there at the same time to make the play, which was very good. And Ed, what can you say about the guy? He scares you to death and then goes and makes a play. So, he's … The thing about it – somebody asked me about it on the play – and Ed will be the first to tell you he probably wasn't in the best position on that pass route. But the thing about him, which makes him special, is when he knew that he was out of position – some guys, especially young guys, will just kind of turn and look back at the quarterback and just watch the ball get completed. And the thing about him was, he knew he was not … As soon as he saw the quarterback look that way, he knew he'd turn – and if you watch him – there was no looking back. It was turn and sprint to where he needed to be, then the ball was underthrown and he made a play. But even had it not been underthrown, at least he could have made the tackle, where other guys that would have been a [touchdown]. So, to me, that's what it tells you about Ed; he's an experienced guy that can go make plays."

Q: Do you feel like the run defense is getting better, and is there a certain element to it that's stopping you from being the group you want to be?

DP:"We've just got to keep working on technique. I think the whole thing all year has been technique, especially with the front seven – not any one guy in particular, not any one group in particular, [but] all of them. The one game – the Dallas game – was a lot of missed tackles. [That] was the No. 1 problem. But just all year, just keep working on technique and getting better with our hands and feet and steps and all the little things that make you a good run defense. It's not about calling blitzes at the right time and pressures. Hey, they'll all work and they'll all not work, but you've got to make them work, and that's all by technique. And it's just doing it over and over and over and over again, and that's what we've got to keep working on. And we've gotten better, but we're not where we need to be."

Q: On a performance level, what's different about the defense in the red zone?

DP:"A little bit, sometimes, can be mindset, but I think the other thing is that, let's be honest, when the offense gets down there things condense. All of a sudden, you don't have the same wide open field and some of the routes and stuff like that. And I think that, along with when you have confidence in anything you do – it's kind of like third-down teams. There are good third-down defenses, and I think they just think they're pretty good on third down and they end up being good on third down. A lot of times it's a confidence level, but the other part of it is, hey, in all honestly, the field shrinks on the offense and so you can defend things a little differently."

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