Well, it is a start. The Ravens first team defense allowed Cam Newton and Derek Anderson to move the ball through the air on Thursday. But there were some good signs as well. But regardless of the team's performance, fans should not get carried away with the early results since Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, the teams two best pass rushers, were both sidelined for the preseason contest.
The biggest takeaway was defensive coordinator Dean Pees decision to call plays from the sideline instead of the booth. Pees has preferred the vantage point that the booth provides, but appears to have decided the team is better served with him closer to the field. We shall see if this change helps the Ravens secondary improve on the communication issues that have plagued them in recent seasons.
From a schematic standpoint, the Ravens made some subtle adjustments. Pees ran a lot of four-man fronts and was able to pressure the quarterback on many of these sets. He also dialed up a few blitzes, with C.J. Mosley and Za’Darius Smith leading the charge in pass rush situations. In the red zone, Pees opted for press man coverage, which helped Jimmy Smith and the corners hold the Panthers to a field goal on one occasion. Signs of more aggression, something which was absent from the team's secondary last year, were there.
Coverage technique remains a big issue. Veteran slot cornerbacks Jerraud Powers and Kyle Arrington were beat repeatedly on inside coverage. Locating the ball in the air is still a major problem as well. First, second, and third team cornerbacks did not find the ball in the air, missing opportunities to knock the ball down or produce a takeaway several times. Secondary coach Leslie Frazier still has his work cut out for him after his group's performance in their opener.
On a more positive note, tackling was solid throughout. Sheldon Price and Zach Orr did well coming up to bring down receivers after the catch. Albert McClellan is poised to take over for Courtney Upshaw as Dumervil’s run down rotation partner. Run defense was good overall too.
Reviving the Ravens pass defense will not happen instantly. It is a process. Let’s see what improvements they can make in this department for their next preseason contest Saturday against Indianapolis.