OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — If the Baltimore Ravens defense is to maintain its unwavering standard of excellence in 2012, the unit must mesh with a new coordinator and operate without several key components — most notably injured All-Pro linebacker Terrell Suggs.
Dean Pees is Baltimore’s fourth defensive coordinator during John Harbaugh’s five-year tenure as head coach. Pees is being counted on to maintain the team’s extraordinary success rate, a job made more difficult by the loss of Suggs, who could miss the entire season with a torn Achilles tendon.
Pees is also trying to overcome the defection of free agents Jarret Johnson and Cory Redding, not to mention the advancing age of linebacker Ray Lewis (37) and safety Ed Reed (33).
If Pees is uptight over the assignment, it was impossible to tell by his actions and words at Wednesday’s voluntary offseason training session.
Relentlessly shouting instruction from the sideline, Pees treated the two-hour practice as if it was every bit as important
as one in December. Lewis, Reed, Haloti Ngata, and, of course, Suggs, were not there.
But that didn’t lessen Pees’ intensity.
“You can probably tell my voice carries. I don’t need signals,” the feisty 62-year-old said.
Pees liked what he saw from Paul Kruger, Albert McClellan, Sergio Kindle and rookie Courtney Upshaw — the top candidates to take over for Suggs as an outside pass rusher.
“As a coach, you’ve got to go out there and coach the guys you have here,” Pees said. “I remember in New England when they told me (standout linebacker) Teddy Bruschi had a stroke. It wasn’t the exact words I wanted to hear. But we had schemes and things we could do until Bruschi came back. It will be the same thing with Terrell.”
Pees follows a long line of successful defensive coordinators in Baltimore, beginning with Marvin Lewis and including Rex Ryan and Chuck Pagano, who held the job last year before leaving to become coach of the Indianapolis Colts. Pees served as defensive coordinator for New England from 2006-09 and worked under Greg Mattison and Pagano in Baltimore.
When Pagano left, Harbaugh didn’t hesitate to promote Pees from linebackers coach to coordinator.
“If you talk to the players, they’ll tell you he definitely has got his own style,” Harbaugh said. “How to describe it, I don’t
know. He’s forceful, obviously. He’s confident. He’s been doing this a long time. I think he’s very creative. He’s one of the best teachers I’ve ever seen as a coach. Obviously the proof is going to be in the pudding, but we’re excited about where we’re going on defense.”
Baltimore always seems to have an outstanding defense, mostly because guys like Lewis, Reed, Suggs and Ngata have been around for so long. That goes a long way toward explaining why the Ravens have made the playoffs in each of Harbaugh’s four years despite the defensive coordinator carousel.
“It goes back to the players,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve had some stability and continuity and leadership with the star players, the veteran guys we all know about. Those guys have so much to do with the tradition that has been established. But the coordinators are no small part of that.”
It’s very early yet, but for now the players seem to believe in their new coordinator.
“He’s so knowledgeable, so crafty,” cornerback Cary Williams said, adding that Pees shouldn’t have any trouble coming up with a plan for the short-handed defense.
“I don’t feel sorry for him and I don’t think Dean feels sorry for himself, either,” Williams said. “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.”
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)