The Ravens knew they were going to have to adjust to find pass-rush without Terrell Suggs.
But the biggest burden will fall on defensive coordinator Dean Pees as much as any player they could stand in Suggs’ spot.
“He’s the best I’ve gone against,” Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron told Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun when asked about Pees. “The reason is because he’s very difficult to decipher what they’re trying to do.”
When Pees was defensive coordinator in New England (2006-09), the Patriots were the only team to rank in the top 10 in scoring defense each year. Granted, he had help from some guy named Belichick, but Pees developed a reputation for X and O acumen of his own.
“Dean is a very, very sharp guy,” Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain said. “A lot of people are going to find that out with his schemes. It’s going to be interesting.
“Everybody knows what’s at risk with Suggs hurt. Sadly, one person went down, but it’s an opportunity for someone else and they all recognize that.”
Without the same kind of personnel that finished with 48 sacks last year (14 of which were from Suggs), the key will be moving parts around to create confustion.
“It’s tough for everybody because quarterbacks are smart, coaches are smart,” Pees said. “They can figure that stuff out pretty good. The key is trying to disguise the blitz, make them think you’re coming and you’re not and vice versa. Every time you put in a blitz, you try to put in something coverage-wise that looks exactly like that.
“Every time you play coverage, you try to have a pressure off of that. It’s just hard sometimes. Linebackers can’t sit 5 yards off the line and pressure from there. So, disguise is always a big part of it.”
That will be a significant part of the Ravens plan this year, since there’s not a replacement for Suggs’ ability. Having Haloti Ngata to push the middle will help the guys they try to use. But no amount of Courtney Upshaw or Paul Kruger or Pernell McPhee is going to fill the gap.
That’s why Pees has to be at his best this season.