It’s been a trying season for first-year defensive coordinator Dean Pees in trying to pick up the pieces of a once-proud Baltimore defense that now ranks 28th in yards allowed and 30th against the run.
The return of Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs has provided a much-needed shot in the arm, but the recent losses of cornerback Lardarius Webb and inside linebacker Ray Lewis have left Pees with even more questions than he already had. The coordinator isn’t dwelling on what’s already taken place through the first seven games of the season, but personnel issues all over the field make you wonder if he has all the necessary puzzle pieces.
Extensive self-examination took place throughout the bye week.
“How are we going to get where we need to get?” Pees said. “What do we have to do? Who do we have to put where? What’s the best technique that we can play that guy in? Can he do what we are asking him to do? If he can’t, then we can’t ask him to do it. We really had to sit down as a staff during that bye week and say, ‘This is what we can. This is what we are – whether we like it, whether it’s exactly what we want to do is irrelevant.’”
The most glaring weakness appears on the defensive line where Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata has received little help in simply controlling the line of scrimmage, let alone making impact plays.
Veteran Ma’ake Kemoeatu and 2010 second-round pick Terrence Cody have offered little at the nose tackle position, and defensive ends Pernell McPhee and Arthur Jones haven’t made anyone forget about former Raven Cory Redding, who was strong against the run and offered a underrated ability to make opposing quarterbacks uncomfortable in the pocket.
Pees has remained accountable in trying to explain the defensive woes, but the group is desperate for answers to remedy the porous run defense and inject life into a pass rush that hasn’t made life any easier for the league’s 24th-ranked pass defense.
“Our guys are working hard. They’re studying hard,” Pees said. “They’re doing all those sorts of things. The young guys – it’s like anything else – you want to see them be consistent. Learn from your mistakes – we all do. Coaches, players, everybody – you learn from your mistakes. The guys that really become good at it are the guys that learn from those mistakes and become consistent.”
Correcting little mistakes is one thing, but lacking the talent to get the job done is an entirely different challenge as many observers wonder whether defensive draft picks in recent years are good enough to get the job done.
If the Baltimore defense is unable to offer a strong performance in Cleveland against rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden and the league’s 29th-ranked offense, the frustration will only grow in the second half of the season.
Trade deadline come and goes
As most expected, the NFL’s trade deadline came and went Thursday without the Ravens making a move.
Many clamored for a veteran defensive lineman, a cornerback, or a situational pass-rusher, but the rarity of in-season trades made those possibilities highly unlikely.
The only significant deadline deal around the league was the New England Patriots’ acquisition of cornerback Aqib Talib from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. New England sent a fourth-round pick to the Bucs in return for the troubled cornerback and a seventh-round pick.
As coach John Harbaugh predicted a couple weeks ago, any dramatic improvements made on either side of the football are going to come from within.