Doug Farrar, head scout for Bleacher Report, recently went through the NFL’s best defensive schemes and alignments and to no surprise, the Ravens’ defense cracked the list. Here is what Farrar had to say about the Ravens’ scheme, which he ranked fifth in the NFL.
The Ravens went 8-8 last season and missed the playoffs for the second straight year, which obscured the outstanding job defensive coordinator Dean Pees did. Baltimore ranked sixth in Football Outsiders’ opponent-adjusted metrics for team defense and 10th against the pass, which was especially impressive given the fact that top cornerback Jimmy Smith struggled to stay healthy.
One thing that has elevated Baltimore’s pass defense is Pees’ use of disguised coverages. It’s something every NFL team does to some degree, but the Ravens are especially good at showing one coverage pre-snap and then altering it as the defensive backs start to move.
Safeties Eric Weddle and Lardarius Webb are big parts of that disguise, as each can play both strong and free positions. And the addition of free-agent veteran safety Tony Jefferson will add additional wrinkles. Jefferson comes from an Arizona defense in which safeties are asked to play multiple positions and help with different disguised coverages.
Whether it’s an invert—where the quarterback expects a shallow cornerback and deep safety and gets the opposite—or a two-deep man coverage look that somehow shifts to Cover 2 zone after the snap, Pees’ disguise concepts are among the league’s most advanced and effective.
No less an expert than Bill Belichick has said that Pees, his defensive coordinator in New England from 2006-2009, does a "good job of keeping you off-balance."
"They’re not going to sit there in one thing all day," Belichick said last December, per Ryan Mink of BaltimoreRavens.com. "They’ve never done that. They’re going to change up the looks on you."
All great points by Farrar, as he gives you a little insight into the Ravens’ offensive schemes. What he referred to in the article was something the Ravens do often. In film pieces I’ve done throughout the offseason, I’ve noticed the Ravens execute this with different deep safety looks. Occasionally, Webb or Weddle will play closer to the line of scrimmage pre-snap then after the snap they'll roll deep for a Cover 2 look to help take the deep pass away.
Often when a team is unsuccessful, the things they do well fly under the radar, so it’s good to see the work Pees is doing with the defense get recognition. Going forward the Ravens defense will have to utilize these advantages, as the slate of quarterbacks they face this year are no joke.