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Ravens D-coordinator Pees has own means of success


Ravens D-coordinator Pees has own means of success

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) When it comes to running the Baltimore Ravens defense, Dean Pees has no regard for history, tradition or statistics.

Pees doesn't give a hoot about following in a long line of brilliant defensive coordinators such as Marvin Lewis, Rex Ryan, Mike Nolan and Chuck Pagano - all of whom used their work in Baltimore to become NFL head coaches.

Pees couldn't care less about the fact that Baltimore has long relied on defense to win. It doesn't matter to him that from 1996 until this season, the Ravens never allowed the opposition to average more than 4.0 yards per carry, or that Baltimore's run of nine straight seasons in the top 10 for total defense ended under his watch in 2012.

For Pees, all of that is meaningless. Because, in spite of all the injuries he had to deal with this season, the Ravens are headed to the Super Bowl.

So the heck with all those big names that preceded him, and all those impressive numbers they put up. Pees has his own agenda, and it's safe to say there's no arguing with the results.

``I don't really care who was here, how well they did. I don't care how they did statistically. That stuff really means absolutely nothing,'' Pees said. ``I come in here to do the best job that I possibly can. That's it. Every year is a different year. Sometimes you just have a great amount of talent. Some years you go through and you never have any injuries. Some years you go through and you have injuries. My job is to do the best that I can every Sunday. History means nothing.''

The 63-year-old Pees was promoted to defensive coordinator by head coach John Harbaugh in January after Pagano took the head coaching job in Indianapolis. Pees served as linebackers coach for two years with Baltimore after working as defensive coordinator with New England from 2006-09.

The offseason loss of free agents Jarret Johnson and Cory Redding, along with injuries to several key players hampered his effort at the outset of this season. Linebacker Terrell Suggs missed the first six games with a torn right Achilles tendon and linebacker Ray Lewis (torn triceps) and cornerback Lardarius Webb (torn ACL) were lost in a win over Dallas on Oct. 14. Only two players started all 16 games in the regular season, safety Ed Redd and cornerback Cary Williams, making Pees delve deep into the depth chart to keep the defense afloat.

At first, Pees tried to stay the course. Then he realized that it was time to alter the game plan.

``You start realizing that this is not quite the same group of guys that we had a year ago doing the same thing,'' Pees said. ``After we got through the (late-October bye), I think we really changed as a defense, and for the better. Maybe I should have seen that a little earlier, but I didn't.''

The younger players on the defense grew in their roles, and when the Ravens finally got healthy heading into the postseason, Pees showed what he could accomplish with virtually everyone at his disposal. Baltimore held Indianapolis to three field goals in the playoff opener, muffled Peyton Manning in Denver and limited New England to a single touchdown in the AFC title game.

``Dean did a great job transitioning really what is a young defense,'' Harbaugh said. ``When you look at our defense a bit, it's become a young defense. We needed to adjust what we were doing a little bit schematically, and we did that. We got back to playing in a very fundamentally sound way. And it showed up in the way we played defense in the second half of this season.''

Linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, who played for both Ryan and Pees, found no trouble contrasting the two.

``Rex would draw plays in the dirt to get it done. Dean is going to prep and do things well in advance so we can practice it,'' Ayanbadejo said. ``Dean is more of a student of the game than any coach I've ever seen. He tries to find little nuances in offenses that he can take advantage of. I've never quite seen D-coordinators do it that way. Usually they're stuck in their ways, but he comes up with new schemes and new blitzes and ways to attack teams based on little nuances they have.

``He's a self-taught pianist, which shows how intelligent he is. So when he coaches football, he kind of approaches it savant-like, with a different type of mentality. We play the game and it's physical. He plays the game and it's chess.''

Given the Ravens' success this season, and understanding that being a defensive coordinator in Baltimore often is a precursor to a head coaching job, it's quite possible that Pees could one day be asked to take the top job with another team.

Ravens cornerback Corey Harris believes Pees would be good at it.

``He's a pretty laid-back coach, a guy that you would love to play for,'' Harris said. ``He lets the players play and lets you go out there and express your personality and be who you are.''

Pees, however, has no intention of taking on the responsibility that comes with being a head coach.

``I was one in college (at Kent State). They can have that gig all they want,'' he said. ``You become a head coach, you become everything but a coach. Especially in college, you're there speaking to alumni, you're doing all this stuff, you never coach. And, that's not why I got into this profession. I watch head coaches even in this league - there's just so many other hats that you have to wear. I don't want to wear those hats. I want to wear this one right out here on the practice field, call defenses and play ball and have fun with the players.''

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Ravens' Lardarius Webb: 'Winning football' comes down to little things

Ravens' Lardarius Webb: 'Winning football' comes down to little things

Safety Lardarius Webb sat at his locker at MetLife Stadium on Sunday digesting the Ravens fourth straight loss and lamenting all the things the Ravens are not doing in order to, in the words of coach John Harbaugh, play "winning football."

"It's making the tackle," Webb said, "getting off the field on third down when you're supposed to. When you make a turnover, not turning it back over."

"It's a lot of little things. We can't do those things to give them the edge."

Webb is the fifth-longest tenured Raven and one of the veteran leaders of this team. And with hints of gray in his sideburns and his beard, and with a gimpy hamstring that knocked him out of the Jets game, Webb, 31, has shown his age at times this year.

In each of the last two losses, a speedy receiver turned a short catch into a long touchdown, with the receiver each time blowing by Webb -- the last line of defense at free safety -- and outrunning him to the end zone.

First it was Odell Beckham going 66 yards with the game-winning score for the Giants in the final two minutes. Then this past week, Quincy Enunwa turned a seemingly harmelss 10-yard pass into a 69-yard touchdown.

"We can't give them big plays," Webb said. "Can't miss tackles."

Through seven games, Webb has 19 tackles and one pass breakup.

Webb's transition from cornerback to safety was one of the major defensive storylines coming into the season,  and secondary coach Leslie Frazier acknowledged that it has been an uneven season for the veteran.

"He has had some good moments, and there are some moments where I’m sure he would be the first to tell you he would like to have another chance at," Frazier said after Tuesday's bye week practice. "But he has done a lot of good things. I think it was a good move for him.

"He has a lot of range and a lot of athletic ability as well. He is still learning as he is going through the process. ... I think overall, he has done a good job at the position. I think he will get better as the season goes on."

MORE RAVENS: Harbaugh defends Flacco: 'I'm a Joe Flacco guy'

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Ravens snap count leaders like Eric Weddle, Mike Wallace can use bye week

Ravens snap count leaders like Eric Weddle, Mike Wallace can use bye week

The Ravens (3-4) are off until next week, using this weekend’s bye to get healthier and refreshed, in the midst of a four-game losing streak. Some players should be more fatigued than others. Here are the six Ravens who have played at least 400 snaps:

QB Joe Flacco – 511 snaps

Flacco played through a sore shoulder in Week 7, and his surgically-repaired knee hasn’t been an issue. Now the Ravens just need Flacco to play better.

“I feel good - just as you would expect seven games into a season,” said Flacco. “I don’t think about it (his knee) at all when I am out there. I think there are times when I say, ‘Oh man, I took a hit right there in the knee.’ But I think it has held up well, and I am not worried about it while I am out there.”

C Jeremy Zuttah – 510 snaps

Zuttah has managed to stay healthy all season, a rarity for a Ravens offensive lineman. The Ravens are going to need a healthy offensive line, Zuttah included, to get their anemic running game going, and to protect Flacco better.

S Eric Weddle - 436 snaps

Weddle remaining healthy is a key to the second half of the season. He has brought stability to a secondary that depends on him for leadership.

ILB Zach Orr - 433 snaps

Nobody wonders anymore if Orr can handle being a starting linebacker. He leads the team in tackles and his best football should be ahead of him.

LG Alex Lewis - 412 snaps

Lewis has been extremely valuable as a rookie, starting the season at left guard, and switching to left tackle when fellow rookie Ronnie Stanley (foot) went down. With Stanley and Lewis, one bright spot this season is that the Ravens have found their left side of the offensive line for years to come.

WR Mike Wallace - 407 snaps

Wallace leads the Ravens in both receiving yards (490) and touchdown catches (three). Any talk about Wallace being washed up, after subpar seasons with the Vikings and Dolphins, has been silenced.

“He has been a great addition to the Ravens’ organization,” said Ravens wide receivers coach Bobby Engram. “We studied the tape, and I think everybody in the building knew he was still a good football player.”

MORE RAVENS: Harbaugh defends Flacco: 'I'm a Joe Flacco guy'