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Ravens promote linebackers coach Martindale to defensive coordinator

Posted on 09 January 2018 by Luke Jones

The Ravens followed an old pattern to hire the seventh defensive coordinator in franchise history.

Continuing the organization’s long-held practice of promoting from within, head coach John Harbaugh announced linebackers coach Don “Wink” Martindale would replace retired defensive coordinator Dean Pees. He is the sixth consecutive Ravens defensive coordinator to be an internal promotion with Marvin Lewis being the only outside hire that arrived for the team’s inaugural 1996 season.

Hired to coach the inside linebackers in 2012 and promoted to linebackers coach in 2016, Martindale is held in very high regard by his players and has helped develop the likes of three-time Pro Bowl selection C.J. Mosley and Matthew Judon as well as former undrafted free agents Zachary Orr and Patrick Onwuasor. The 54-year-old was considered the top in-house candidate to replace Pees, but the delay in promoting him lead many to believe he wasn’t the top choice.

“Wink has earned the promotion to defensive coordinator,” Harbaugh said in a statement. “His aggressive mentality will serve to take our defense to new levels. He is obviously respected by players, many of whom have already benefited from his direct coaching at the linebacker position. He knows the ins and outs of what we have been about on defense and has been an important contributor to our success on that side of the ball.”

The announcement was met with a lukewarm response from those fans wanting the organization to bring back Chuck Pagano, who served as Baltimore’s defensive coordinator in 2011 before being hired as the head coach in Indianapolis. The Ravens had been interested in a reunion with Pagano, but he had two years remaining on his contract with the Colts and may ultimately elect to take some time off from coaching after being fired last week.

Martindale served as the defensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos in 2010, but it was a forgettable year as Pro Bowl defensive end Elvis Dumervil missed the entire season with a pectoral injury and the unit finished last in total yards and points allowed. He was dismissed after that season and hired a year later by Harbaugh.

An internal hire is rarely an exciting one, but Martindale has roots with the Ryan family and coached with former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan at the University of Cincinnati from 1996-97 and with Rob Ryan in Oakland from 2004-08. It’s also worth noting that the popular Pagano was an internal Ravens hire who replaced Greg Mattison, who wasn’t exactly a popular defensive coordinator in the eyes of many Ravens fans.

Harbaugh also named Mike Macdonald to take Martindale’s place as the linebackers coach. The 30-year-old has been with the Ravens since 2014 and served as the defensive backs coach this past season.

“Mike is one of the rising coaching standouts in the NFL, and he has earned the respect in the locker room and in the coaching room,” Harbaugh said. “We’re excited to see what he’ll do when he coaches our linebackers.”

Baltimore promoted Sterling Lucas to the role of defensive quality control after he most recently served as administrative assistant for the defense.

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Ravens defensive coordinator Pees reportedly plans to retire after season

Posted on 31 December 2017 by Luke Jones

The Ravens could be looking for a new defensive coordinator in 2018.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Dean Pees is expected to retire at the end of the season after leading the Baltimore defense for the last six years. The news would hardly be a shocking development as the 68-year-old has pondered retirement in the past, but he has yet to let his players know of his plans beyond this season.

Pees is in his 14th season coaching in the NFL, but he’s spent more than four decades in the profession overall and was even the defensive coordinator at Miami of Ohio when current Ravens head coach John Harbaugh played there. He was hired by Harbaugh to be the Ravens linebackers coach in 2010 and replaced Chuck Pagano as defensive coordinator in 2012.

Tasked with coordinating the first defenses in team history without future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis at middle linebacker, Pees has led the 2017 Ravens to a top-10 ranking in most major categories including takeaways (first), interceptions (first), total defense (ninth), pass defense (10th), points allowed per game (fourth), third-down defense (ninth), and red-zone defense (ninth). Baltimore has also recorded three shutouts, the second-biggest single-season total in franchise history.

Pees is one of eight defensive coordinators in NFL history to coach in a Super Bowl with two different teams after serving in that capacity with New England in 2007 and with the Ravens in 2012.

Many are already speculating about the likes of Pagano, Marvin Lewis, and even Rex Ryan returning to reprise the role of defensive coordinator, but the Ravens have filled the job from within every time since Lewis was hired away from Pittsburgh to be the defensive coordinator for the inaugural Ravens in 1996. Should that trend continue, linebackers coach Don “Wink” Martindale would be the strongest internal candidate to become the seventh defensive coordinator in team history. Martindale spent one year as Denver’s defensive coordinator in 2010 and has been on the Baltimore staff since 2012.

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Dumervil’s arrival signals new era for Ravens defense

Posted on 26 March 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens coach John Harbaugh chose his words carefully, taking ample time to compliment his Super Bowl champion defense by labeling it the “winningest” unit in the NFL a year ago.

But the numbers didn’t lie and Harbaugh wasn’t going to hide from the Ravens finishing 17th in total defense, tied for 12th in points allowed, 20th in rush defense, and 17th in pass defense. The cracks in the foundation were bigger than ever, even as the Ravens perfected the “bend, but don’t break” mindset employed by coordinator Dean Pees in his first season in charge of the defense.

Trying to hold on would be a mistake in the Ravens’ minds and they shared that very sentiment at their season-ending press conference just a few days after the Super Bowl.

Change was inevitable for various reasons, evident by the free-agent departures of safety Ed Reed, linebackers Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe, and cornerback Cary Williams as well as the release of strong safety Bernard Pollard. Realities of both finances and age led to several unpopular departures, but it became easier to carry out these changes with the retirement of linebacker Ray Lewis, the iconic head of the Baltimore defense for the last 17 years.

Three-time Pro Bowl pass rusher Elvis Dumervil became the first dynamic addition in a new era for the Ravens. It’s a unit without Lewis and Reed leading the way but still employing impact players — Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, and Lardarius Webb — around which to build. Dumervil’s 63 1/2 career sacks bring instant credibility to a revamped front seven that’s also added veteran defensive linemen Chris Canty and Marcus Spears.

“You’re either getting better or you’re getting worse, right?” Harbaugh said. “And we need to get better in everything we do. I know our defensive coaches and defensive players feel the same way. It’s how I feel. Let’s put the best defense together we possibly can. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

Following his unexpected departure from the Denver Broncos, the 29-year-old Dumervil immediately drew interest from the Ravens as Suggs and inside linebackers coach Don Martindale began selling the defensive end on coming to Baltimore. The 2006 fourth-round pick was drawn to the defensive culture still present in Baltimore despite the exits of the two iconic figures most responsible for creating it.

He and Suggs will now form one of the best pass-rushing duos in the NFL as the two have combined for 148 sacks in their respective careers. But the one thing Dumervil’s new teammates have that he doesn’t is what called him to the Ravens after making the decision to leave Denver.

“I want some hardware myself, so I’m a little envious right now,” Dumervil said. “The chemistry, they’ve had [it] here for a long time and I’m sure a lot of the guys learn a lot from that. If I can come in and try to fit in where I can and try to be part of that and keep it going, obviously, leadership and the team is important.”

Losing so much leadership on the defensive side of the ball, a question often asked this offseason has been who will take the reins of the defense with the emotionally-charged speeches of Lewis and the behind-the-scenes presence of Reed no longer in the building in Owings Mills. Dumervil didn’t shy away from assuming a leadership role to complement incumbents such as Suggs and Ngata.

For now, the Ravens will hope his ability to get after the quarterback will offset the free-agent loss of Kruger — and then some — and continue the ability to make game-changing plays like he did in Denver. Playing among such defensive standouts as cornerback Champ Bailey, safety Brian Dawkins, and linebacker Von Miller over his seven years with the Broncos, Dumervil was not only considered a good teammate but a player able to rise to the occasion at the most critical times.

“There’s no task too big for him. Whatever you need him to do, he’s going to do it,” said Martindale, who coached Dumervil in 2009 when the pass rusher collected a career-high 17 sacks. “The thing that jumped out at me the most from our time in Denver was not only looking at the stats — we know about rushing the quarterback — but when you needed a big play, Elvis always seemed like the guy who made the play.”

The Ravens will need more playmakers to reload a once-proud defensive unit undergoing a major makeover. There is more work to do as general manager Ozzie Newsome will look for solutions at inside linebacker, safety, and possibly defensive tackle.

The signing of Dumervil not only stopped the bleeding for a defense dealing with the loss of six starters from a Super Bowl season, but it reminded fans that there is a clear vision in place.

And the winning return for that plan doesn’t have to be delayed if executed correctly.

“Sometimes, you have to make a tough decision,” Dumervil said. “I just felt like it was time to change the scenery.”

It’s a lesson both Dumervil and the revamped Ravens defense had to learn this offseason, but both are hoping those changes will be for the better.

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