Thursday, September 20, 2007

Ravens Defense Built on Talent and Trust


Ravens defenders will tell you that their defense is built on talent and trust. Even casual observers of the team would note that the Ravens don’t really have a conventional base defense. Rex Ryan has taken the collection of athletes provided to him courtesy of Ozzie Newsome, Eric DeCosta and his protégés and he places them in position to maximize their unique skill sets all within the parameters of the organized chaos called the Ravens defense.

When talking to Ravens defenders, they will tell you that Rex has entrusted his players to make choices on the fly even if such choices are reduced to complex decision making models like rock-paper-scissors.

I’m not kidding! Just ask Ed Reed and Bart Scott.

Rex may make a certain defensive call and within that call there are 11 sets of responsibilities. Haloti Ngata might be assigned a particular gap that he needs to collapse. How he does it is up to him. That’s why you often see him or Kelly Gregg re-positioning themselves pre-snap. Rex will simply mimic Larry the Cable Guy and say, “Git ‘er done!”

Trust is earned. Trust takes time. And trust works for Rex Ryan & Co.

One might then wonder why Brian Billick doesn’t do the same on offense. But offense is an altogether different animal. Timing and coordination is essential and to stay one step ahead of the defense the quarterback needs to deliver the ball on time and that means before a receiver breaks.

Or the quarterback needs to recognize coverages and defensive alignments and check out of plays that are destined for failure based upon the alignment presented pre-snap. Demetrius Williams can’t alter the depth of his route, particularly if the quarterback plans on delivering the football to a spot that the receiver needs to get to at a particular time.

One thing the Ravens offense could do a better job of is attacking an opponent’s weak link. The Ravens don’t run Vince Lombardi’s offense. They aren’t proficient enough at anything to say, “We’re running it left, now come and stop us.” They can’t dictate the game that way. It has to be like war and they have to attack the weak flank. Force the opponent to provide reinforcements to the weak link and then that opens things up elsewhere.

You can expect Ravens opponents to attack their weak link. Teammates are quick to defend Samari Rolle and they will tell you that the Ravens style of defensive play places an added burden on their corners. Those teammates will tell you that Rolle is one of the best at what he does.

Even if you buy what his teammates are selling when it comes to Rolle, relatively speaking he is the weak link and if I’m Ken Whisenhunt and/or Matt Lienart come Sunday, the No. 22 to me looks, walks and talks like a big fat bullseye.

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