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Ravens' Chuck Pagano Deserves Credit For Defense

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If you look at the players on the field when the Baltimore Ravens defense takes the field, there is not a significant difference between the guys you see in 2011 and the ones who played in 2010. Everyone has another year of experience and to be fair to some of them, there are a couple of new faces, or at least some that you are seeing more than you did last year. However, the difference between the two units is blatantly obvious in the results seen on the field.

The Ravens always seem to be among the best defensive teams in the league each year, but certain issues from 2010 do not seem to remain in this year's group. Last year, the Ravens were among the worst teams in sacking the opposing quarterbacks. Despite being a top-five defense, they relied more on turnovers and interceptions than pressure on the QB to force the opposition's hand. 

All too often, the defense rushed only three players and sat back in coverage, giving the opposing QB way too much time to ultimately pick apart the Ravens defense for big gains in critical situations. In the AFC Divisional Playoff Game in January, that exact thing happened when Pittsburgh Steelers B Ben Roethlisberger had time to wait and then unleash the game-changing bomb that was the key play in the Steelers victory.

After the 2010 season, then-Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison left the team to take the same position at his college alma mater, the University of Michigan. The Ravens promoted Chuck Pagano to the Defensive Coordinator position, who vowed to return the team to the type of "Organized Chaos" that former DC and now New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan used to employ.

From a story in USA Today, Pagano unleashed the Ravens defense to pressure the QB with stunts, movement and constant blitzing that has vaulted them to the top of the NFL in terms of points allowed (14/game), ultimately the most important defensive statistic. He involves the players in the decision-making process, which the players obviously take ownership of and respect the man for permitting their input instead of dictating the schemes to them. Opposing QB's have no idea where the pressure is coming form and with that, it allows the team's best pass rusher, Terrell Suggs to free-lance where he sees fit and chase quarterbacks all over the field, forcing them into making big mistakes.

Pagano is referred to as a "players-coach," which means he gives them the leeway they feel makes them a better player and together, a better unit. This has definitely proved true on the field, although at times they get caught and burned but still are the stingiest team in the league on that side of the ball. This will continue to not only drive and lead this team towards the post-season and the crazy thing is, good for the Ravens and bad for their opponents, is that with certain players due to return to the active roster shortly, this defense could be getting healthy and even better than it already is.