- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- When linebackers coach Dean Pees was promoted to the Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Friday, he said it was a "humbling" opportunity. He also knows it is an opportunity filled with high expectations.
The Baltimore defense has finished in the league's top 10 for nine straight seasons, including six in the top 5. Three of the previous four Ravens defensive coordinators have gone on to become NFL head coaches.
This isn't like taking over the Cleveland Browns' offensive coordinator job. The Ravens are expected to be the top defense every season, and that's exactly what coach John Harbaugh said while sitting next to Pees at the news conference.
"The tradition of this defense will continue, and it will flourish and it will even get better," Harbaugh said. "It will be in Coach Pees’ hands."
So, the keys of the defense were officially handed over to Pees, and so has the responsibility of maintaing the Ravens' aggressive approach. If the defense fails to put pressure on the quarterback, the pressure will fall on Pees.
He has the challenge of following Chuck Pagano, who left to become the Indianapolis Colts' head coach. In one season under Pagano, the Ravens went from a team record-low 27 sacks to finishing tops in the AFC.
"You’re going to see a fiery Dean Pees," Harbaugh said. "You’re going to see an aggressive defense just like we’ve seen in the past. We’ll be getting after people. That’s the plan. That’s not going to change. We’re going to build on that."
Pees' track record says he will handle the job. When Pees was the Patriots' defensive coordinator from 2006 to 2009, New England ranked in the top 10 in fewest points allowed each season. But there were mixed results as far as where the Patriots ranked in sacks during that four-year period: 5th (2006), 2nd (2007), 14th (2008) and 23rd (2009).
Pees went immediately from being the Patriots defensive coordinator to Ravens linebackers coach last season, a move that has drawn many questions about his departure from New England. "I decided not to go back there," Pees said. "I was not fired. I decided to explore other avenues and this was a great avenue to explore."
Harbaugh also announced that Cam Cameron will return for his fifth season as the team's offensive coordinator, saying it was "a foregone conclusion" that he was coming back. There had been speculation that Cameron would not be retained after the Ravens' offense finished a disappointing 15th in the NFL this season.
"We’ve got to get better with the chemistry in the passing game, which will come," Cameron said. "I think you saw progress."
9hEric D. Williams