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Ravens hire ex-Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier to run secondary in defensive staff shake-up

The Ravens shook up their defensive coaching staff Friday with the additions of Leslie Frazier and Joe Cullen.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh made some changes to his defensive staff Friday, adding two new assistants, including a former NFL head coach, and altering the roles of several others.

Leslie Frazier, a former NFL cornerback who was the Minnesota Vikings head coach for parts of four seasons and spent the past two years as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator, was named the Ravens' new secondary coach.

Chris Hewitt, the Ravens defensive backs coach during the 2015 season, will work with Frazier. Matt Weiss, who worked with the cornerbacks this past season, will now coach the linebackers alongside holdover Don Martindale, whose role will expand after he worked primarily with the inside linebackers last year. The Ravens had an opening for a linebackers coach after Ted Monachino left the organization last week to become the defensive coordinator of the Indianapolis Colts.

The Ravens hired former Buccaneers assistant Joe Cullen as their defensive line coach. The Ravens' longtime defensive line coach, Clarence Brooks, is battling esophageal cancer and will have surgery in the coming weeks. He's expected to remain on Harbaugh's staff in 2016 as a senior defensive assistant.

The Ravens also have elevated the role of Scott Cohen, a consultant last year who will have a full-time position as a coaching assistant/opponent analyst. Cohen was garnering some interest from the Cleveland Browns for a front-office position, but he opted to stay with the Ravens.

The defensive staff shake-up comes nearly two weeks after the conclusion of a disappointing 5-11 regular season. The defense finished eighth in the league in yards allowed per game (337.4) and was one of the stingiest units in the league for the second half of the season.

However, the group struggled to create turnovers and finish games strong for a second straight year. The Ravens forced just 14 turnovers all year, tied for second fewest in the NFL. They also had a league- and franchise-low six interceptions. The previous franchise low for interceptions was 11, set during the 2014 and 2005 seasons.

At the "State of the Ravens" address last week, Harbaugh praised the job that defensive coordinator Dean Pees and his staff did, but stressed the importance of creating more turnovers and getting to the quarterback more consistently.

"I know what kind of coach Dean Pees is. I look at the season and the improvements that we made — especially in the back end — throughout the course of the season, and that's what you look for," Harbaugh said. "… We still have plenty of work to do, but I trust Dean. I know he is a very good coach. All those guys — I know they are good coaches. You work side by side with a bunch of guys through a season like this, you find out what they're made of. And I like our guys."

Harbaugh, who is due to be in Jupiter, Fla., Saturday to take part in organizational meetings at owner Steve Bisciotti's home, interviewed both Frazier and Cullen on Friday after gaining permission from the Buccaneers.

The Buccaneers fired head coach Lovie Smith and replaced him with his offensive coordinator, Dirk Koetter. Koetter hired former Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith to run his defense and former Cincinnati Bengals assistant Jay Hayes to coach the defensive line. That paved the way for Frazier and Cullen to depart the organization.

Frazier, who is expected to be in Baltimore in the coming days to finalize his contract, is a highly respected defensive mind. As a player, he led the 1985 Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears with six interceptions. As an NFL coach, he has 17 years of experience, including his stint as head coach of the Vikings.

After taking over on an interim basis after the Vikings fired Brad Childress in 2010, Frazier compiled a 21-32-1 record as Minnesota's head coach. That included leading the Vikings to a 10-6 record and a wild-card berth in 2012. He was fired following the 2013 campaign.

Frazier, 56, coached defensive backs with the Philadelphia Eagles (1999-2002) and Indianapolis Colts (2006), and was the defensive coordinator for the Bengals (2003-04), Vikings (2007-10) and Buccaneers.

Cullen has had stints as the defensive line coach of the Detroit Lions (2006-08), Jacksonville Jaguars (2010-12), Browns (2013) and Buccaneers (2014-15)

However, he's perhaps best known for a couple of off-field indiscretions that occurred earlier in his coaching career. Cullen was arrested twice while he was an assistant with the Lions in 2006. The first incident was for driving under the influence. The second was for driving naked through a Wendy's drive-through in Michigan.

Cullen was fined, given probation and ordered to do community service and attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. He was also suspended for one game by the NFL.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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