|James Ihedigbo has been playing a hybrid S/LB role in the Ravens' 2-4-5 defensive package. (US Presswire)|
Since coming out of the bye week, the Ravens have gotten creative in their substitution packages. In one of their more effective packages, the 2-4-5 defense, Baltimore has moved various players around to create mismatches that have helped the defense generate pressure on the quarterback.
In Baltimore's first seven games, it struggled getting after the quarterback. In the past two games, the Ravens have recorded six sacks, with the sub package disguising where defenders are coming from.
Safety James Ihedigbo, who was mostly a backup and special teams player during the first half of the season, has received more playing time in passing situations when the Ravens revert to the 2-4-5. Ihedigbo plays a hybrid safety/linebacker position in the package, lining up near the line of scrimmage with the ability to blitz or drop into coverage.
This defense tends to play more zone while bringing pressure, making it difficult for offenses to read both before and after the snap.
“The whole philosophy behind the defense is to make it tough on the quarterback and for the receivers, making everything be post-snap reads with the ability to blitz and covering tight ends, or running backs, whatever it may be," Ihedigbo said. "Playing zone gives us a good variety on the defense.”
Defensive coordinator Dean Pees decided on this look with the input of some of the defenders, namely Ed Reed. The Ravens had given up 622 rushing yards in three consecutive games from weeks five through seven.
During those three games, quarterbacks were only sacked three times and had a ton of time to throw when they decided to.
But in recent weeks, that hasn't been the case. Last Sunday, Steelers backup quarterback Byron Leftwich was sacked three times and hit an additional five times.
"(The defensive coaches have) done a really good job of mixing some fronts up and putting some guys in different spots to account for some of our personnel issues," coach John Harbaugh said.
The package moves players all over the field. Outside linebackers Courtney Upshaw and Albert McClellan have seen time at defensive tackle. Outside linebacker Paul Kruger has moved onto the line to play defensive end within the design.
You'd think someone like Upshaw, at 6-2, 270 pounds would be at a disadvantage going against interior linemen that weigh 300 pounds or more. That hasn't been the case.
"It's a battle in there but I'm a competitor," Upshaw said.
The defensive package has been able to disrupt Baltimore's past three opponents -- Cleveland, Oakland and Pittsburgh -- which has given it some momentum considering where the defense was prior to the new look.
"We're moving in the right direction," Ihedigbo said. "That's what it's about. You want to be playing your best defense as you move toward the end of the season. We're moving in the right direction. We just have to keep stringing (wins) together and continue to emphasize the mentality of being sharp and knowing your job. And then going out and having fun.”
Follow Ravens reporter Jason Butt on Twitter: @CBSRavens and @JasonButtCBS.