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Despite changes, Ravens defense still formidable

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff  September 19, 2012 02:15 PM

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FOXBOROUGH -- Terrell Suggs has been one of Tom Brady's adversaries whenever the Patriots have played the Baltimore Ravens.

This year, the Patriots quarterback won't have to face the highly extolled linebacker because he's on the physically unable to perform list after injuring his Achilles' in the offseason. But there's still the likes of Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and Haloti Ngata to deal with. There's been some turnover on the Ravens' defense elsewhere, but that doesn't mean they don't command respect.

"You know, their defense, it’s interesting because over the years they’ve lost key players and they fill different guys in and different guys play different roles," Brady said. "[Suggs is] a phenomenal player and he's been very durable over his career. We’ve played him multiple times. But they're still getting a lot of pressure on the quarterback and applying different blitz schemes to get pressure. Haloti Ngata is almost impossible to block at times. They like to get their safeties involved. They like to get Lardarius Webb involved. Everybody is a blitzer and that’s the kind of scheme it is. There are different playmakers and they know how to use them and they know what they like. I’d like to blitz a lot of those guys, too, if I was how good they are at getting to the quarterback."

The Patriots may also see a touch of New England flavor in this Ravens defense. Former Patriots coach Dean Pees has taken over as defensive coordinator for Chuck Pagano in Baltimore, who left to become the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.

"I have a lot of respect for Dean," Brady said. "He was a great coach here and he's got those guys playing well. He's been in that system and knows those players, and they’ve got a lot of playmakers and I think he’s great at using those guys really doing what they do best. Ray [Lewis] is a big time playmaker, Ed Reed is, Haloti [Ngata]; Lardarius Webb has turned into one of the best corners in the league. They’ve got a lot of great players that can really wreak havoc. I think Dean does a great job of putting those guys in positions where they're able to make those plays and it’s not so scheme-oriented where sometimes Ray is out of a play – Ray’s in every play. I’m sure that’s just the way he wants it, too."

Filling in for the injured Suggs is second-year pro Albert McClellan, who mans the rush linebacker spot for the Ravens that draws similarities with the elephant role on the Patriots. He's not the only young linebacker the Ravens are utilizing. Rookie Courtney Upshaw started his first game at the sam linebacker spot for Baltimore against the Philadelphia Eagles last week. The two are part of a trio of younger Ravens making their mark, including defensive end Pernell McPhee, who is in his second season in the NFL. But for Brady, worrying about Pees' influence on the Ravens and the addition of the youngsters does not change the same challenging task ahead when facing the Ravens.

"The base of their defense has been the same way for a long time," he said. "The coordinator probably has the most different flavor. How they're going to play us, we don’t know that. They're going to have their own game plan. I'm sure it’s not going to look like the Eagles game plan. They’ll have probably their core things they do and from week to week some different looks, some different blitz looks. Like last week, we’ll probably have to make some adjustments over the course of the game, because it’s still early in the year and things still haven’t really played out. You don’t have your whole playbook in, so to speak, so they’re just trying to find ways to screw us up a little bit and vice versa."

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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