Pressure point: Ravens

May, 16, 2012
5/16/12
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Examining who faces the most challenging season for the Baltimore Ravens and why.

Four of the the Ravens' five defensive coordinators in their history have gone on to become head coaches. Baltimore's defense has ranked in the top six in eight of the past nine years. So, there's tremendous pressure on new defensive coordinator Dean Pees to uphold the standard of excellence.

His job became much more difficult when linebacker Terrell Suggs, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, tore his Achilles. He also faces the delicate situation of how to handle team leaders Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, both of whom showed their age toward the end of last season. Then, add in the season-ending stretch where Baltimore faces seven Pro Bowl quarterbacks in its final eight games (they also account for five Super Bowl rings).

Pees is familiar with strong defenses. He spent the past two seasons as the Ravens’ linebackers coach after a six-year stint helping run Bill Belichick’s defense in New England. During Pees’ four-year tenure as defensive coordinator (2006-09), the Patriots were the only team in the NFL to finish in the top 10 in scoring defense each season. He now gets the keys to an aggressive Baltimore defense that ranked third in the NFL in sacks (48) and first in forced fumbles (21) last season.

In taking over the Ravens' defense, Pees called it a "humbling" opportunity. It's also a challenging one to follow in the footsteps of Marvin Lewis, Mike Nolan, Rex Ryan and Chuck Pagano.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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