Thursday, October 15, 2009

Is Greg Mattison to blame for the Ravens' defensive woes?

I don’t pretend to know more about defense than Ravens’ defensive coordinator Greg Mattison nor do I profess to know a lot about him that I haven’t heard from the players, other coaches and front office personnel. They have all given him the thumbs up and these football professionals have all forgotten more about football than I’ll probably ever know.

Mattison or “Matti” as he is affectionately referred to around The Castle, seems like a really good guy with a bright football mind who has clearly earned the respect of his players and for me that goes a long way especially when you consider the ample shoes he's trying to fill.

Last year Matti was an assistant to the owner of those ample shoes, Rex Ryan. Matti was the linebackers coach on Rex's defensive staff and being the sharp guy that he is, I have no doubt that he watched Rex closely and absorbed the exotic nuances of the organized chaos knowing that if Rex moved on to be a head coach elsewhere as anticipated, Matti had an excellent chance of succeeding Rex.

As we know, that’s exactly how it played out.

Yet I wonder like many of you, if he is a student of the game and he studied last year’s defense, why has it changed so much? What happened to the organized chaos? Was it broken? Did it need fixing? The Ravens were after all the No. 2 defense in the NFL.

We were told to expect less blitzing, better gap control, more discipline and fewer big plays yet through five games the Ravens have given up 19 plays of 20+ yards and 4plays of 40+ yards while QB’s have an average rating of 80.4. Last season the Ravens surrendered 41 plays of 20+ yards and 6 plays of 40+ yards as quarterbacks struggled to reach a 60.6 average rating.

If you project the 2009 numbers out over the course of the season opposing QBs have enjoyed a 33% improvement in efficiency; opponents have experienced the pleasantries of 49% increase in plays of 20+ yards and a whopping 133% increase in plays of 40+ yards.

Is that the discipline and big play prevention Matti sought at the season’s outset?
Might injuries be at play here?

Is it the personnel?

You could argue that the Ravens are more talented in the secondary this season with added depth. The defensive line should be stronger simply with the return of Kelly Gregg, right?

At linebacker the Ravens are missing Bart Scott. Is his absence responsible for this bleeding?

I have refrained from blaming Greg Mattison so far. But if the personnel hasn’t taken a significant hit (it hasn’t) and if health isn’t an issue (it’s not) then from my vantage point there are only a few variables left to explain the team’s defensive inadequacies and they are: preparation/ game plan; proper usage of personnel; comfort level of the players in the new system; play calling and execution. Four of these five are on Mattison.

Is Matti capable of formulating the right game plan at the NFL level? He’s never done it prior to 2009.

Does his more conservative approach sit well with players who are used to being active and aggressive?

Rex Ryan has always been a coach who knows how to utilize the skills sets of his players in the right way. Is Mattison managing his talent properly?

Maybe he’s just not a great play caller. Maybe he tips his hand like a pitcher who tips his changeup and he’s easy to prepare for.

Obviously something is wrong and the common denominator seems to be Mattison.
If it ain’t broke why fix it?

Perhaps it’s time for Mattison to kick a little pride to the curb and dust off the organized chaos before this defense and the season are dusted by Messrs. Favre, Palmer, Manning, Rodgers and Roethlisberger.
Photo by Sabina Moran.


RW19 said...

Not to disagree, but there is one possibility you left out.

Could it be that a healthy Carson, Brady, and Rivers are simply better QBs than we faced last year.

While last year's schedule was the "4th toughest in the league" or whatever, it turned out to not be so tough after all.

This year was seen as an easier schedule, but with dramatic turnarounds in Den., Minn., Chi., G.B., and Cincy, I believe it will prove much harder.

Richard in Dallas said...

W O W - you are SOOOOOOO right on re your thoughts on GMattison! I know what PC CoachJohn will say, but do you have any inside sources who indicate some changes might be in the offing?
On the OTHER hand, maybe the players are living on the reputations of their predessors (or slowing down, see #52) and are, in fact, OVERrated by we fans/writers who are drinking the kool-aid.

AND, let's not forget the '07/'08 last minute drives to victory by the Pats & Steelers & Titans executed against RexRyan D's (a la the Dolphins last Monday night) - hmmmm, does this say something about the D: scheme-wise; stamina-wise; talent-wise; coaching-wise; or ...???

Jerry B said...

Given the obvious weaknesses in the secondary, this team needs to blitz more not less. Mattison's schemes to date have put more pressure on our secondary than on opposing QB's. If this defense is to regain some semblance of dominance, it will be from an all out assault on opposing QB's or we're inclined to see more Qb's taking our secondary out behind the proverbial "wood shed".....

Anonymous said...

I cringe when I see opposing quarterbacks having all day to throw against our secondary. Bring back the chaos. At least on 40% of plays. Don't let opposing quarterbacks think they can sit back there and pick us apart. Let them think they'll get blasted. Denver pressured Brady and won the game. Oh, that's right. Denver's got Mike Nolan as DC, playing some form of what he played here. Sheesh.

Harryos29 said...

HARRY OS 29 Oct 28th
Regarding Greg Mattison's Defensive Schemes. Coach JOHN "PC" needs only to look 100 miles up Rt 95 to see a team, who by the way, also have Birds on their HELMETS; Who have continued on, terrorizing Quarterbacks, even with the Passing of the Great Coach, Jim JOHNSON. They BLITZED
the REDSKINS back to the WHITE house on MNF. Need I say more?
..Sure the Redskins have a new Offensive line. But the GUYS in GREEEN were in the Quaterbacks Face all nite long. Cocah JOHN is in charge of the entire don't you think he is allowed to HAVE INPUT (hIS roots ARE IN pHILLy ) in the Defensive Game Plans.?? BLITZ THE BRONCOS SILLY!