Dean Pees is ready to put 2012 behind him, and understandably so. The vaunted Baltimore Ravens defense struggled throughout Pees’s first year as defensive coordinator, eventually ending the season at 17th overall. Quarterbacks regularly sliced through them, while running backs ran all over them.
It didn’t take long for panic to set in amongst fans and analysts, and many of them placed the blame on Pees.
Where was the aggressive defense that flourished under former DC Chuck Pagano? What happened to the defense that was second in the league against the run and fourth against the passing game in 2011? What happened to the defense that sacked the third most QB in the league just one season prior?
Well, for starters, Pees went into 2012 missing several key contributors. Terrell Suggs, the team’s leader in sacks and forced fumbles, tore his achilles tendon early in the offseason. eterans Jarret Johnson and Cory Redding, who had a combined seven sacks and 99 tackles, departed in free agency.
Things only got worse after the season started. Lardarius Webb, the team’s best cornerback, and Ray Lewis, the team’s leading tackler, both sustained season-ending injuries in Week 6 against the Dallas Cowboys. Jameel McClain also went down with a season-ending injury in Week 14 against the Washington Redskins.
Practically everyone on the defensive line struggled with injuries throughout the entire season as well, including Haloti Ngata, Pernell McPhee and Terrence Cody.
It’s a new year, though, and a new defense. Thanks to the genius of Ozzie Newsome, Pees has a myriad of new toys to play with in his defensive scheme.
Chris Canty and Marcus Spears were signed to shore up the defensive line. Elvis Dumervil was brought on to improve the pass rush. Daryl Smith was hired to add depth to the inside linebackers corps, and Michael Huff was tapped to man the backfield where Ed Reed once roamed. There are six new rookies on the defense, and at least two (S Matt Elam and LB Arthur Brown) are projected to start once the season begins.
Webb and McClain shouldn’t be forgotten, either. Both are rehabbing successfully and are expected to return at some point during the 2013 season.
With a stud-packed defensive line, a lethal pass rush, and an improved secondary, expect Pees to work some real defensive magic in 2013.