The Ravens' formerly stingy defense has reached a difficult crossroads after struggling mightily during the first seven games.

Unable to stop the run or the pass with any consistency, the reigning AFC North champions have fallen to 28th in the league in total defense and are allowing 400 yards per contest.

The vulnerable outfit ranks 30th in run defense, giving up 142.9 yards per game and have surrendered 622 rushing yards over the past three games.

With shutdown cornerback Lardarius Webb out for the season, the Ravens rank 24th in passing defense with 257.1 yards given up per game.

The Ravens' coaching staff attempted to use the bye week to determine a new course of action, but there are no easy answers for what ails this beleaguered defense. 

The defensive line has been shoved around, failing to occupy blockers or generate much of a pass rush.

The linebackers have had issues corraling athletic running backs in the open field, missing multiple tackles.

And the cornerbacks particularly new starter Jimmy Smith, have been susceptible to deep passes and double-moves. There haven't been enough big plays from safeties Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard.

First-year defensive coordinator Dean Pees has often found himself outmanned in terms of personnel options due to injuries and players that haven't met the old standard.

"Hopefully, the bye week will help us there," Pees said. "What we did is we just sat back and evaluated, like I said, the whole scheme and said, ‘OK, here’s who we have. Here’s where we are. Forget where we’ve been the last seven games. How are we going to get where we need to get? What do we have to do? Who do we have to put where? What’s the best technique that we can play that guy in? Can he do what we are asking him to do? If he can’t, then we can’t ask him to do it.’

"We really had to sit down as a staff during that bye week and say, ‘This is what we can. This is what we are, whether we like it, whether if it’s exactly what we want to do is irrelevant. If you don’t have corners that can play man coverage, you are crazy to play man coverage, right? If you have guys that can’t play zone, then you’re crazy to play zone. I’m using those guys as examples, but it’s the same thing up front. If a guy can’t play a shade, then don’t put him in a shade. If a guy can’t play a two-gap, then don’t put him in a two-gap. And what we have to do and what we’ve done or tried to do is say, ‘OK, this is what we can do.’ Same thing with the blitzes, same way with the pressures, can this guy do it?'"

Pees acknowledged the reality that the loss of Webb, who was signed to a $50 million contract during the offseason, has caused a major adjustment for the defense.

"Webby’ is not there, can this guy do it?" Pees said. "Is it going to be the same? Is it going to have the same effect? All those things that you look at and you say, ‘Here’s what we can do going forward. This is what we need to do to win.’”

awilson@baltsun.com

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