When Rex arrived on the scene, he fascinated us all with his creativity and aggression. He blitzed quarterbacks into timid submission. He also revealed to us the incredible talent of the greatest cornerback of them all. He blitzed us right to the doorstep of the Superbowl in his very first year. And then he did it again the very next season. The defense was juiced. For a minute there we boasted not only the greatest ever corner, but the best linebacking tandem in the league (remember that?), and a ferocious defensive line that was anchored by a stud phenom athlete in Kris Jenkins. We were LOADED. And we were young and emerging. Unfortunately, that was the height of the excitement. We didn't grow from there. We didn't get over the hump. I think the main reason why was because Rex didn't grow as a coach.
He didn't grow because he didn't have to. He was the flavor of the year, two years running. And he was doing it his way, with defense. I get it. Why go through embarrassing growing pains, sometimes looking the fool, by getting involved on the other side of the ball? Why get out of your comfort zone when your winning and are the toast of the town doing your defense thing? Why expose yourself? Well now here we are, 4 seasons behind us and back to square one. Now he has to grow or die. Lucky for him, Pettine provides an excellent opportunity to for him to do just that.
Rex knows defense. More specifically, Rex knows HIS defense. And up in Buffalo, Mike Pettine is going to be running Rex's defense. Rex knows all of the ins and outs and nooks and crannies of that defense. Every weak point, every false facade, every trap coverage... He knows it better than Pettine. And he knows Pettine. He knows how he thinks, how he likes to set up calls, how he likes to hide and surprise. He knows how he builds a game plan and evaluates personnel. He knows how he likes to organize and prepare. He has very intimate knowledge about the machine and the man behind the machine. For the first time, he can enter into a prep week with an extremely high level plan for dismantling an opponent from an OFFENSIVE perspective.
Rex has probably never been in that position before. Yes, Baltimore ran the same basic defense that he did. But he didn't know the Ravens' DC like he knows Pettine. And although the Ravens defense may be generally similar, it wasn't as similar as Pettine's defense will be. For the first time, Rex will be able to enter the offensive room without being the HS kid trying to have a graduate school discussion. For the very first time he will be the guy with the doctorate surrounded by a bunch of grad school kids hanging on his every word while he's delivering an offensive game plan.
He will know every detail of that defense, and he will have intimate knowledge of his own personnel and how to administer it to maximum effect. For the first time, we might see Rex walk over to his OC and bark out intense situational directives while covering his his mouth with his play sheet so that the lip-readers can't read lips. We might actually see Rex guiding his offense against Pettine's (i.e. HIS) defense.
Hopefully, it triggers deeper understanding of the game for him. Hopefully, that deeper understanding is what he needs to get this team over the hump.