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What's next for Ravens' D?

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

Every few years, Baltimore Ravens fans go into a tizzy over who will be their next defensive coordinator.

It happened in 2002 when Marvin Lewis bolted for the Washington Redskins and later became head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals.

It happened again in 2005 when Mike Nolan left to coach the San Francisco 49ers.

And this week Baltimore's most recent defensive coordinator, Rex Ryan, was introduced as the new head coach of the New York Jets.

Baltimore's defense didn't miss a beat when Ryan took over for Nolan. He has been one of the top assistant coaches and a hot name on the head-coaching circuit for the past couple of years. But after failed interviews with the Miami Dolphins and Atlanta Falcons last year, Ryan impressed New York enough to lead its team in 2009.

"I've been preparing my whole career to be a head coach," Ryan told me a few weeks ago when his name first surfaced with the Jets, Detroit Lions and St. Louis Rams.

So who will replace Ryan?

In-house candidates include Baltimore secondary coach Chuck Pagano and linebackers coach Greg Mattison. Both assistants have done well coaching portions of the Ravens' second-rated defense this year. The team also could search outside of the building, which could make it more difficult in terms of continuity.

As long as the Ravens retain key free agents, such as linebackers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs, the next defensive coordinator will have very talented personnel to work with.

Great talent helps make great defenses. And Baltimore, at the very least, has half of the equation already figured out.