Ryan isn't in rush to panic

Ravens

September 22, 2005|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,Sun reporter

When he hears the statistics - one sack and one turnover in two games - Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan shows no signs of aggravation. Ryan does, however, make a slight concession.

"That's probably not what we envisioned," Ryan said. "Obviously you want to get sacks, you want to get take-aways and all that kind of stuff. But if a team is not going to hold the football, it's going to be hard to get some sacks."

Such has been the Ravens' fate thus far this season, matching up against veteran quarterbacks in the Indianapolis Colts' Peyton Manning and Tennessee Titans' Steve McNair, who were unfazed by the shifting, motion and pressure of a defense thought ready to wreak havoc on opposing offenses.

Instead, the defense has been solid but not special, susceptible to an occasional big play but unable to make any of its own.

The Ravens have given up five passes of 20 yards or more, with two resulting in touchdowns, and have also allowed six runs of 10 yards or more. Those numbers are not too far out of whack from previous years, but the difference comes from the lack of momentum-shifting plays the defense has caused.

The Ravens have generated just a fumble by Titans running back Chris Brown and a sack when Roderick Green chased McNair out of bounds.

Through two games a year ago, the defense had six sacks and three turnovers.

"The plays are going to come," Ryan said. "It's just like that old saying that sacks happen in bunches, because they do. For a particular player, I don't know how many times they've been like, `He's only got this many sacks,' but yet at the end of the year, he's got 16 sacks. When you start getting them, you start getting them."

Ryan, in the same manner as former coordinators Mike Nolan and Marvin Lewis, contends if his defense stays the course and shies away from freelancing, that the game-changing plays will happen.

It is a theme his players have adopted.

"I think our thing is just staying within the scheme of the defense and not freelancing," linebacker Adalius Thomas said. "It's easy to freelance when things aren't going your way. But our time will come."

The sack total ties Oakland and New Orleans for worst in the NFL, a surprising revelation for a defense that at the onset of the season figured to challenge for the league lead.

Credit opposing quarterbacks and the offensive systems for getting the passes off. But with upcoming games against passers who are a little less sure in the pocket in the New York Jets' Chad Pennington, the Detroit Lions' Joey Harrington and the Cleveland Browns' Trent Dilfer, some Ravens said their sack total will soon no longer be a topic.

"Offenses have been scheming us," defensive end Terrell Suggs said. "But once we get it rolling, it's rolling. Then [you'll] be asking me different kinds of questions. [You'll] be asking me why is this pass rush so good?

"How many Peyton Mannings are in this league? We're not going to face a Peyton Manning every week. With the quarterbacks we've got left, we've just got to play football."

As for the turnovers, the secondary, featuring five former Pro Bowl players, was to be responsible for causing those, but lapses in communication have kept drives alive. The defense is also adjusting to Deion Sanders' switch to covering the slot receiver, something he has not done in his previous 13 seasons.

Sanders always covered the receiver on the outside, but the loss of Gary Baxter necessitated the move. Against the Titans, he and Chad Williams had a breakdown on a 35-yard Drew Bennett catch. Sanders was also beaten on another play.

"It's the most difficult switch I've ever had because it's easy to get out there and get your man," Sanders said. "But to really have more involvement in passing guys off to linebackers and working together in a scheme, that's tough."

As could be reaching the standard many expect this defense to reach. The pace is a little slow, but the big plays, according to Ryan, will show up eventually.

"Judge us anytime you want, you guys got that right," Ryan said. "But you may look like a fool at the end of the season."

brent.jones@baltsun.com

Jets@Ravens

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