Pagano Could be the Defensive MVP for 2011

As we continue to revel in the Ravens performance last Sunday, just one of the positives that many could take away from that Steelers win was the aggressive play of the defense.

New Defensive Coordinator Chuck Pagano was quoted as saying early on that he wanted his defense to “wreak havoc” on opponents. No doubt the defense was able to accomplish just that against one of the league’s top runners in Rashard Mendenhall and a two-time Super Bowl winner in Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Sometimes to get a better picture of how that actually happened you need to call in an outside source. In my opinion it’s an expert source. Ken McKusick (A.K.A. – “Filmstudy”) is a featured contributor on Ravens 24 x 7 and his breakdowns on the Offense and Defense after most games is required reading if you are a Ravens fan.

You’d have to assume that there is a lot to like after this week’s blow out win, especially on the defensive side. But as Film Study notes there are a few other things to pay closer attention to than just blitzing more that may make this defense one of the best in the league when all is done in 2011.

The biggest complaint coming from fan’s last year about Greg Mattison’s style was that too often he would rush only three players and drop the rest in coverage. Often this would give the Quarterback time to scan the field and find an open seam in the zone. Pagano sent three only three times on Sunday. One of which was Roethlisberger’s TD to Emmanuel Sanders. It should be noted that Pagano was visibly angry at himself for not calling for more pressure.

The majority of the game Pagano either sent 4 or 5 rushers  when the Ravens were able to turn Pittsburgh over a Franchise-High 7 times.

There were some other notable differences. First, the substitution packages were vastly different as Pagano tried to get as many players involved as possible. He seemed to have roles for almost all of his players. Vets like Jarret Johnson, who have been every-down players were much fresher because they were limited due to the defensive rotations. Last Sunday he played in 36 of 61 snaps. Johnson has been a great player but this approach should help him come December.

Second, the Ravens used much more deception in terms of pre-snap movement. Pagano would also have players set up their one on one match-up for a later move. Suggs sack where he stunted around the Guard is an example of this. The pressure was coming from “all angles” on the field and kept the opponent off balance and unable to find a rhythm.

Lastly and this may or may not be a result of the scheme but the Ravens defensive stars shone brightly. Suggs was a terror. Ray Lewis caused a fumble and had an interception off a tip. Haloti Ngata showed why he’s a dominant interior lineman by occupying multiple blockers and causing disruption in the backfield. Ed Reed, of course is the greatest ball hawk ever. It takes great players to have a great defense and several of these players could be in the running for most valuable defender.

Players play and no matter what is called they must execute. But I have to think that if the Ravens are fortunate enough to advance to a Super Bowl it will be because Chuck Pagano has re-instituted an aggressive unpredictable scheme to fit these great ball players.

Which makes him the MVP or in his case MVC.

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