Arthur Smith plans to lean on Dean Pees’ defensive experience

Longtime NFL defensive assistant Dean Pees retired for the second time following the 2019 season. This retirement lasted a year, rather than just a few weeks like in 2018. But Pees said late last month that he un-retired to work with new Falcons head coach Arthur Smith.

Smith and Pees worked together on the Titans’ staff from 2018-2019, the latter year serving as offensive and defensive coordinator, respectively. So there’s familiarity and trust between the two men, which is critical for Smith as a first-year head coach.

“Dean’s body of work kind of speaks for itself. But is Dean is also somebody that is not set in his ways. Dean is very flexible. He’s adaptable,” Smith said this week, via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I feel really good about the entire staff, but on the defensive side we got some really good experience over there. Combining that with some young guys, it’s a good mix. Dean and I have a shared vision. We’ll play to our strengths. We’ll be multiple.

“It was really beneficial for me, being a first time head coach and I’m still going to call the plays, is that you have somebody with that kind of experience that you can lean on especially on that side of the ball.”

Pees has coordinated six top-10 defenses, including Tennessee’s 2018 team that ranked No. 3 in points allowed and No. 8 in yards allowed. Though the Titans were 12th in points allowed and 21st in yards allowed in 2019, the club advanced to the AFC Championship Game. And Tennessee took a clear step back defensively in 2020, ranking No. 24 in points allowed and No. 28 in yards allowed.

Given the Falcons’ perilous salary cap situation, Smith will likely need Pees to come up with creative ways to make the most out of the team’s defensive personnel in 2021.