Dean Pees is known for getting creative with his defenses.
He likes having versatile players on the roster who can play more than one position so he can add some dimension to his scheme. Unfortunately, his first season as the Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator was a rough one. Three of his best players never played together on the field in 2012.
Terrell Suggs tore his achilles tendon in the offseason and missed the first six games. Lardarius Webb and Ray Lewis both sustained season-ending injuries against the Dallas Cowboys. Several other players struggled with injuries all throughout the season, including Haloti Ngata, Dannell Ellerbe, Jameel McClain, Pernell McPhee, Jimmy Smith, Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard. With his defense never at 100 percent, Pees was extremely limited in what he could do defensively.
It’s a new year, though, with a new season on the horizon. Suggs, Webb, Ngata, McPhee and Smith are healthy and back at practice. If they can remain healthy, Pees will have a solid foundation to build his defense upon, and now that he has some new toys to play with, this season’s Ravens defense should look crafty. There are numerous players on the roster who can play multiple positions and will likely be used in various spots throughout the season.
Ngata has always been a versatile player, able to slide all over the defensive line to accommodate the strengths and weaknesses of other players. Newcomer Chris Canty has a similar ability, though he is most known as a defensive tackle.
Suggs is known mostly as an outside linebacker, but he has been used as a defensive end on more than one occasion. Elvis Dumervil was a defensive end in the Denver Broncos‘ 4-3 defense before converting to an outside linebacker for the Ravens’ 3-4, so he can be utilized at either position.
Courtney Upshaw and Pernell McPhee are outside linebackers who can be used as defensive ends, which can come in handy with Dumervil and Suggs on the field together. Albert McClellan is a talented backup linebacker who can play both the inside and outside position. Bryan Hall is a defensive lineman who converted to inside linebacker, so don’t be surprised if Pees uses him in more than one way.
James Ihedigbo, Michael Huff and rookie Matt Elam are all versatile safeties who are able to play both the free and strong positions. Huff has the most experience between the three, and has even played cornerback for the Oakland Raiders. Ihedigbo has had a lot of experience with multiple teams, and his aggressive style can be used in a variety of ways. Elam is obviously the least experienced, but he is fast, aggressive and has a knack for finding the football, whether it’s in the air or in a player’s hands.
When it’s all said and done, Dean Pees has the players to mix up the defense however he likes it and will keep opposing offenses on their toes. The defense alone should make a trip back to the postseason easily.