Though defensive coordinator Greg Mattison departed for the same job at the University of Michigan, new coordinator Chuck Pagano doesn't figure to make sweeping changes to the defense.
"This hasn't changed, and it (isn't) going to change," Pagano, formerly the Ravens' secondary coach, told reporters when asked of his defensive philosophy. "They've been playing great defense here long before any of us got here, and they'll be playing great defense long after I'm gone and whoever else they name (coordinator after me). They've always been an attacking, swarming, tough, physical, hard-nosed group of men."
The defense Pagano will oversee remains one of the AFC's best but isn't as dominant as it was in its best years.
The Ravens surrendered more yards this season (318.9 ypg) than they had in any of the past eight seasons. Four defensive starters are slated to be free agents: CB Chris Carr (six years of service), DT Haloti Ngata (five years), SS Dawan Landry (five) and CB Josh Wilson (four). The Ravens will make re-signing Ngata, a Pro Bowler, a priority, the team has said.
One area of need that general manager Ozzie Newsome cited at the annual state-of-the-Ravens season-ending press conference was finding more pass-rush help for OLB Terrell Suggs, who had 11 of their 27 sacks — tied for the fourth-worst total in the league — in the regular season. He added five in the postseason, when the Ravens notched a robust-nine sacks overall.
The promotion of Pagano has its advantages. With the Collective Bargaining Agreement between owners and players set to expire in less than six weeks and no one quite sure what the offseason will bring, the Ravens won't be learning a new defense. By contrast, the Browns also switched defensive coordinators, with Dick Jauron replacing Rob Ryan, but Cleveland is expected to switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 scheme.
"They've been very, very good over the years here because of continuity," Pagano said of the Ravens' defense. "There's been guys walk out of the door and have opportunities and move on, which is great for them. But the thing that hasn't changed is the system, for the most part."