Over the weekend, the Ravens saw veteran WR Derrick Mason take his talents up 1-95 to New York to join longtime Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan and the New York Jets.
Several ex-Ravens have made the trip up to the Big Apple to follow in the footsteps of Coach Ryan, but several of the current defensive players here in Baltimore are putting a lot of faith in their newest defensive coordinator, Chuck Pagano, who is succeeding Greg Mattison after Mattison left to become DC at the University of Michigan.
And Pagano-in his first several interactions with the media as defensive coordinator-is emphasizing the fact that he has just as much faith in his players to make plays as they have in him to draw them up.
“We’ve got some great guys,” Pagano said. “They’re passionate about football. They were really eager to get back in here and go to work after the long layoff, and the energy level’s great. They’re flying around having fun, and that’s all we can ask for.”
It will be on Pagano to try and re-direct a defense that finished 10th last year in the league in YPG (318.9) while keeping the respectable 4th-overall in PPG (16.9).
Baltimore finished 21th best in the league last year in passing yards allowed while focusing on the stopping the run will hopefully still be a tendency (5th best in the NFL).
Already, Pagano is getting comparisons to Rex Ryan when he was running the Ravens defense because Pagano comes with that same tenacity as Ryan did-while at the same time being loved and respected by the players.
“He’s a little more toward Rex’s style being emotional while Coach Mattison already kept a level head,” linebacker Jarret Johnson said at the podium last weekend. “Rex would get pissed off and bring the house, and I think [Coach Pagano] might be somewhere in between with his coaching knowledge…but the ability to relate to him, it’s awesome.”
“Everyone loves Chuck,” CB Lardarius Webb told Glenn Clark on “The Afternoon Drive” last week. “Chuck’s so smart, and he knows how to interact with the players. Everybody likes him. I can’t find a player who doesn’t like Chuck.”
Greg Mattison took a lot of heat last year for conservative play calls in key situations, and to some-including several Raven players-it didn’t seem like the Baltimore defense other teams were used to seeing on a weekly basis.
Webb thinks Coach Pagano is going to make people forget about the team’s struggles from a year ago and get back in key with what Rex Ryan had in store with this defense when he last left in 2008.
“I’ve seen a lot of defensive coordinators,” Webb said, “but all the ones for the Ravens always try to attack. That’s what we do, and if we’re not doing that, we’re not playing like the Ravens.”
“When people put on our tape, it needs to look like we’ve got thirteen, fourteen, or fifteen guys out there. We need a smart football team…one that doesn’t beat itself, and plays with great fundamentals,” Pagano noted. “We expect to go out there and shut people out and play great defense.”
Johnson has noticed the changes already and is favor of them 100 percent.
“Overall with scheme, you can see his influence but he’s very aggressive. I really like his mentality and it’s been really great so far.”
Linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo said that in his opportunities with the first-team defense in training camp, he already sees Coach Pagano’s new aggressive style and tendencies.
“Chuck’s never scared,” Ayanbadejo said. “Chuck’s the kind of guy who wants to punch you in the mouth.”
Safety Haruki Nakamura-who probably knows Pagano the best out of anybody-agreed with his fellow defender about his boss.
“Chuck’s personality speaks for itself,” Nakamura said. “He acts like the good guy, but he has that dark side when coaching the defense.”
Ayanbadejo said that despite the fact that Pagano served as the secondary coach the last several years, Pagano made sure to forge relationships with everyone on the defense even outside his position guys.
Ayanbadejo said that can only help Pagano get the best out of them.
“We’ve been dealing with Chuck for four years now on all different levels.”
“He’s got a special relationship with every single guy,” he said. “You can go up to Chuck and talk to him because he started out as a position guy, and he wasn’t in this bubble.”
Pagano said the players have made the promotion that much easier on him and shown him that level of respect right back.
“I’ve known the guys, and they know me,” Pagano said. “They know my personality, and I know their personality. It was an easy transition.”
And we’ll get to see Pagano at work for the first time Thursday up in Philadelphia in Week 1 of the preseason.
“What we’re looking for is good communication, lining up and making the checks,” Pagano said Monday. “It’s all about being on the same page…so coming out of this first one, we’ll know more.”