Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees has taken a lot of criticism from the media, fans and especially me. That defense was playing far below average by Ravens standards in the first-eight games of the season. I had Pees on the hot seat that's for sure. But in the last four weeks after their bye week, the Ravens defense has turned things around in a pretty notable way.
Since their bye (past 4 weeks), #Ravens have allowed the NFL’s fewest pass yards (164.0) & 2nd-fewest total yards (257.0) per game— Patrick Gleason (@PMGleason) December 7, 2015
Pees deserves credit for the improvement of this defense. If he can receive the blame when things go wrong, he should receive praise when things go well. Now, there are four games left but I like what I see from this unit lately and I'm sure Ravens fans do as well.
Some people will point out the fact that the Ravens defense in the last four games played the Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins, St. Louis Rams and the Jacksonville Jaguars which are teams that are not known for scoring a lot of points. That doesn't matter considering the fact that the Ravens defense allowed over 450 yards passing against the Browns in week 5 and allowed over 340 yards passing to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick who got benched shortly after that game.
In the Ravens first-eight games this season, the defense was allowing over 380 yards a game to go along with allowing over 25 points a game. The improvement in the last four games has the defense allowing 341 yards a game on the season which ranks 14th in the NFL while the Ravens is allowing under 25 points a game with a 24.2 average.
The decision by Pees to let cornerback Lardarius Webb play free safety more often during this turnaround has played a big role in the improvement in the secondary. The secondary still has some lapses late in games, notably against the Browns in week 12, but Rome wasn't built in a day. This defense still needs some time to get back to their earning their reputation as a dominating unit.
It is encouraging to see the improvement because it is a sign that players are not tuning Pees out and it is also a good sign considering the injuries the Ravens have sustained the secondary and in their front seven including outside linebacker Terrell Suggs. Backups on defense like inside linebacker Zach Orr and defensive end Brent Urban have stepped up nicely and cornerback Shareece Wright has played well after a shaky start earlier this season.
Head coach John Harbaugh noted the defense's improvement since the bye week. He talked about the hustle the unit has displayed and the better fundamentals as the major reason we see a different type of unit on the field.
I see more disciplined play. We’ve had very few breakdowns in the back end. We’ve had a few, but very few compared to earlier in the year. I see better tackling. For the most part, I see really good tackling. Our front is dominating upfront, and we are running to the football. That has gotten better every single week for about the last four or five weeks – say four weeks. It has gotten progressively and steadily better. To me, when you run to the football with your hair on fire like your life depends on it, you have a chance to be a really good defense.
In terms of coaching changes and personnel changes on the defensive side of the ball, that might still happen but if the defense continues to improve in their last four games of the season, then it should be an encouraging sign for the Ravens front office going forward.