Baltimore Ravens Defensive Playbook to See Big Changes in 2009

Aaron SchwartzCorrespondent IMay 28, 2009

BALTIMORE - SEPTEMBER 7: The defensive line of the Baltimore Ravens lines up against the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium on September 7, 2008 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens won 17-10. (Photo by Ned Dishman/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***

If there is one thing that will be completely different for the Baltimore Ravens in the 2009 season, it will be their defensive playbook. With the departure of defensive coordinator Rex Ryan to the New York Jets, so too will depart the legendary playbook that held crazy blitzes and unreadable coverages.

Last season proved to be an amazing statistical year once again for the Baltimore Raven defense. In 2008 under Rex Ryan the Raven defense had 34 sacks, 26 interceptions, and 13 forced fumbles during the regular season. It is impossible to deny the fact that Rex Ryan brought a swagger to the Raven defense, and he will be missed.

The biggest question is whether or not Greg Mattison can come in and fill Ryan's shoes. The answer is probably not, but obviously they are big shoes to fill. But even if he can not bring the same swagger and complexity to the defense that Ryan brought, it does not mean that he can not effectively run the defense.

The Raven defense still has it's core of veteran players like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, and they will be getting back Kelly Gregg and Dawan Landry who missed the 2008 season due to injuries. It seems to be the best scenario for Mattison to step into, a great defense that has experience together, and an emerging offense to help him out.

The offense of the Ravens should take some of the pressure off of the defense this upcoming season. Headed by sophomores Joe Flacco and Jon Harbaugh, the offense should be improved from last year, especially on the offensive line. This is key, because it will allow for the Ravens to keep the ball longer and give the defense a breather.

With Mattison stepping in, and the return of Kelly Gregg, we can look for the Raven defense to go back to it's old methods of being physical and having ball hawking safeties. It should be a great year for Ray Lewis as he will be able to rely on his defensive line, just as he did back when he played with Siragusa.

This should cause the Ravens to stay at the top of the league in run defense, and if that remains true, then we should see teams trying to air it out on the Ravens.

That is where the Ed Reed factor will come in to play. Reed has undoubtedly become the biggest playmaker on the Raven defense with his 9 interceptions last season, two of which he returned for touchdowns.

For the 2009 season, we can look for the Baltimore Raven defense to be a physical run stopping defense that also prevents the big play through the air.

Although Rex Ryan leaving for New York may have hurt initially, the entrance of Greg Mattison and the return to the old Raven style of defense may be just what the Baltimore Ravens need if they are going to win a Superbowl championship in 2009.