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Ravens D-coordinator Pees has own means of success

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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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Best case, worst case scenario for WR Steve Smith Sr.

Best case, worst case scenario for WR Steve Smith Sr.

Clifton Brown and Bo Smolka are taking turns putting 25 key Ravens under the microscope leading up to veterans reporting to training camp. They’ll speculate on a best-case, worst-case scenario for at least one player every day, concluding with quarterback Joe Flacco on July 25.

UNDER THE MICROSCOPE: Steve Smith Sr., 37-year-old wide receiver

Best-case scenario for Smith:

He enjoys a typical 1,000-yard season, and he remains the Ravens’ top receiver.

Why it could happen:

It’s dangerous to bet against Smith making a full recovery from Achilles surgery, even in the twilight of his career. Few athletes perform with more of a chip on their shoulder than Smith, who is always driven to prove doubters wrong. He’s a technician at route running, he studies film diligently, and he’s a master at using his body and hands to ward off defenders. Smith never relied on pure speed to be a top receiver. So even if he’s a tad less explosive, Smith has the talent to end his career playing at a high level.

Worst-case scenario for Smith:

Smith’s body betrays him, and the Ravens’ depth at wide receiver reduces his playing time and role.

Why it could happen:

Father Time is undefeated, and may finally be calling for Smith. The older an athlete gets, the harder it gets to recover from injuries. With their deep group of tight ends, and the addition of wide receivers Mike Wallace and rookie Chris Moore, the Ravens may not be as dependent on Smith as they have been. Even if Smith is healthy, his role in the offense might be less prominent.

RELATED: FLACCO HAS LONG ODDS FOR MVP

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Flacco has same MVP odds as Winston and Mariota

Flacco has same MVP odds as Winston and Mariota

Joe Flacco has been a Super Bowl MVP and has won 10 playoff games. Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston have played one NFL season.

However, all three of those quarterbacks have been given the same odds (100/1) of winning next season’s MVP award by sportsbook Bovada.lv.

People who think Flacco is an elite quarterback may view that as disrespect. But the Bovada.lv odds throw even more shade at Flacco.

Sixteen quarterbacks are given a better chance of winning the MVP award in 2016 than Flacco. Some of the names you would expect, like Aaron Rodgers, who is the favorite at 4/1, followed by Ben Roethlisberger (7/1), Cam Newton (15/2), Russell Wilson (8/1), and Tom Brady (9/1).

But do Blake Bortles (66/1) of the Jaguars or Brock Osweiler of the Texans (66/1) really have a better chance of winning the MVP than Flacco? According to Bovada.lv they do. That’s also an indication that not much is expected from the Ravens overall after their 5-11 season. The better your team does, the better your chances of winning the MVP.

Newton won the MVP last year starting at 50/1 odds. So if you believe in Flacco and the Ravens, those 100/1 MVP odds for Flacco may look like an enticing play.

RELATED: Can Dumervil lead a rebirth of Ravens's pass rush?

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Ravens under the Microscope: Best case, worst case for DE Elvis Dumervil

Ravens under the Microscope: Best case, worst case for DE Elvis Dumervil

As we countdown to training camp, Clifton Brown and Bo Smolka will take turns putting 25 key Ravens under the microscope this month.

They’ll speculate on a best-case, worst-case scenario for at least one player every day. They’ll begin with players looking to carve out a role, or a roster spot. They’ll end with the Ravens’ most important players, concluding with quarterback Joe Flacco on July 25. 

RELATED: DUMERVIL DESPERATE TO GET A RING

UNDER THE MICROSCOPE: Elvis Dumervil, 32-year-old linebacker

Best-case scenario:

Dumervil is among the NFL’s sack leaders and spearheads a rebirth of the Ravens’ pass rush.

Why it could happen: 

Dumervil equaled his career high with 17 sacks as recently as 2014. He keeps himself in great shape, and says he feels great after offseason foot surgery. If Terrell Suggs returns healthy, Dumervil won’t have to face as many double-teams, or play as many snaps. Dumervil looks at last season’s results as unacceptable – just six sacks for him, and just five wins for the Ravens. He’s motivated to double both totals – at least.

Worst-case scenario:

Dumervil is no longer an elite pass rusher

Why it could happen:

Dumervil entered the league in 2006, and at some point the wear and tear will start to show. If young pass rushers like Za’Darius Smith, Kamalei Correa, and Branson Kaufusi  are effective, Dumervil could see his role diminish as the season wears on.

RELATED: BEST & WORST CASE SCENARIO FOR JIMMY SMITH