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Recent posts by Mike Wilkening
Chuck Pagano coached the young Ed Reed at Miami (Fla.) and works with him now as Reed patrols center field for the Ravens. Pagano is past the point of being surprised at Reed's capabilities, but he still marvels at the free safety's powers of anticipation.
"Right now, from a mental standpoint, he's so far ahead of the game," said Pagano, the Ravens' secondary coach for the last three seasons.
Reed, 32, was named an AFC Pro Bowl starter this week after intercepting six passes in just nine games after missing the first six games of the season with a neck injury. Two of those interceptions came in Week 16 at Cleveland, which he has tormented throughout his career. The first of those picks highlights what makes Reed special and his value to the Baltimore secondary.
As the Browns faced a 3rd-and-5 at their 49-yard line early in the second quarter, Reed recognized the Browns' formation, Pagano said, and told LCB Lardarius Webb a short pass to WR Mohamed Massaquoi could be coming. Reed urged Webb to jump the route and told him he would have help over the top.
As it turned out, Massaquoi ran an up-and-out, leaving Webb behind, but Reed had his back, intercepting the pass.
After the play, Pagano sought out Webb, who told him that Reed had instructed him to be extra aggressive.
"I said, 'OK, I'm good,' " Pagano said, satisfied with his explanation.
Reed's preparation sets him apart, Pagano said, noting that because Reed knows the defense inside-out, he can focus on learning an opponent's tendencies. His presence, as the interception vs. Cleveland shows, helps the cornerbacks tremendously, but the Ravens' corner play has also been a strength recently, which has helped Reed and SS Dawan Landry play more "instinctively," as head coach John Harbaugh pointed out leading up to Week 17.
Webb doesn't start but plays frequently, and Pagano believes the second-year corner, a little more than a year removed from a knee injury, is coming into his own. "You can just see his game getting back and surpassing where he was last year," the coach said. Pagano also praised starting LCB Chris Carr and RCB Josh Wilson, mentioning Carr's steadiness and study habits as strengths and noting that Wilson has played very well in the last four or five weeks.
Overall, Pagano likes what he's seen from his secondary, which played surprisingly well early in the season with Reed out, slumped somewhat thereafter but has played better recently. Pagano credited the improvement to improved communication among the group.
"You can see the progress they've made," he said.