The transition from Rex Ryan's complex, cover-2 schemes to the new wrinkles of Greg Mattison's defense figures to be more subtle than startling when the Ravens hold their first minicamp of the offseason Friday.
"There will be a lot of similarities to what we've run in the past," Mattison said this week. "I think the players will see any changes that have been made and why we made them. Things haven't changed much; we're just going to try to improve what we do."
Still, the biggest change from John Harbaugh's first season as Ravens coach to the second will center on the team's unswerving defense. Mattison, who spent his first NFL season coaching linebackers, was promoted to defensive coordinator Jan. 26 after Ryan became coach of the New York Jets.
Since then, Mattison, 59, has fine-tuned a playbook that was one of the league's most feared under Marvin Lewis, Mike Nolan and finally Ryan. Under Ryan, the defense never finished worse than sixth in total yards allowed.
The concept behind Mattison's subtle tweaking was the same as the keynote of Ryan's clever schemes: Put players in the right position to do what they do best.
"I think Greg is an old-school, fundamental, detail-oriented kind of a coach," Harbaugh said. "I think he's going to put guys in position from a fundamental standpoint to do things that they do well one-on-one."
Mattison might have only one season in the NFL, but he brings an impressive resume to the discussion. He coached 31 years at the college level, 10 as a defensive coordinator. He was co-coordinator with Charlie Strong at Florida before joining the Ravens, and also coordinated defenses at Notre Dame, Michigan and Western Michigan.
Among the players he coached along the way were defensive end Justin Tuck of the New York Giants, former Ravens end Tony Weaver, and John Offerdahl, a retired five-time Pro Bowl linebacker with the Miami Dolphins.
In large part, it was Mattison's relationships with his players - and the integrity with which he held those relationships - that convinced Harbaugh he was the right person to replace the popular Ryan.
Offerdahl, who owns a restaurant chain in South Florida, didn't want to play football when he first met Mattison in 1982. Offerdahl was a linebacker at Fort Atkinson (Wis.) High, and Mattison was recruiting for Jack Harbaugh - John's father - at Western Michigan. (John was on the staff as a graduate assistant at the time.)
"I show up, and he starts pontificating about his position at Western Michigan, how it was trying to be a big-time program and how he noticed me on film," Offerdahl remembered. "I looked up and said: 'Great. I've got to get to band practice. I've got a concert tonight.' "
Not considered an NCAA Division I prospect, Offerdahl was more interested in playing French horn and becoming a doctor than football. When he realized he could ease the financial burden on his parents with a scholarship, though, he agreed to go to Kalamazoo, Mich.
Mattison refined Offerdahl's technique, helped him become the leading tackler in the Mid-American Conference, and pointed him toward a lucrative NFL career. After Offerdahl's junior year, during which he struggled with biochemistry classes, he wanted to quit football to preserve his dream of becoming a doctor.
"[Coach] pulled me aside and made two points," Offerdahl said. "First, he said, 'John, you can do it, and we can work with you.' Then he said, very clearly: 'You don't know how close you are to a dream that thousands of men your age have and never reach. You're on the precipice of playing in the NFL.' ...
"Coach Mattison made that the defining moment in my life. He said, 'Don't throw it all away,' and his example spurred me on."
During his long tour of college coaching, Mattison resisted overtures from John Harbaugh to join the NFL. He had just completed the 2008 recruiting season at Florida when he decided to make the move.
"Every day I've been here, it's reinforced that this is a tremendous place," he said. "I'm not so naive not to know some of it has to do with having a great season [reaching the AFC championship game]. But I'm talking about the day-to-day relationships with players.
"I'm coaching Ray Lewis, and Ray is the greatest player I've ever had the opportunity to coach. He listens to every word you say, does everything you ask him to do.."
When minicamp starts Friday, Mattison will have new weapons to work into the equation, among them free-agent cornerback Domonique Foxworth and draft choices Paul Kruger, Lardarius Webb and Jason Phillips.
Mattison said he will introduce as much of the playbook as he can this weekend, then break it down in later sessions. The rookies and new players will be scrutinized.
Mattison wanted to make one final distinction as Ryan's successor.