Tackles hold the line


Kemoeatu, Gregg anchor defense that is second in NFL against run

Ravens notebook


It does not take Rex Ryan long to explain why his run defense, after three games, is second in the league.

"Your run defense starts through the middle with two great tackles," said Ryan, the Ravens' defensive coordinator. "That's your anchor. The ball has to go east and west and not north and south. When that happens, you're going to be pretty good."

It has been happening for the Ravens primarily because defensive tackles Kelly Gregg and Maake Kemoeatu have been virtually unmovable. The tandem helped keep Curtis Martin, Chris Brown and Edgerrin James all under 100 yards this season. None of those backs averaged 4 yards a carry, either.

Tomorrow's game with the Detroit Lions features another hard-nosed back in Kevin Jones.

Jones has rushed for 147 yards and is only averaging 3.3 yards a carry, but he still has been the focus of the Ravens' defensive game plan this week. Jones has a good enough offensive line to have a breakout game.

"They've got the veteran guard in [Damien] Woody, he's been to Pro Bowls," Gregg said. "They got the free agent guard [Rick] DeMulling from the Colts, he's been in the playoffs. And the center [Dominic Raiola] is experienced. With Kevin Jones, and they even got some backups, they are going to be tough."

But not as tough as the middle of the Ravens' defense this year. Teams are averaging 3 yards a carry - third lowest in the NFL - and much of that credit goes to the improved play of Kemoeatu, in his first year as a starter.

Kemoeatu is coming off a career game against perennial Pro Bowl center Kevin Mawae of the New York Jets.

"One of the things I've learned is being able to adapt to different players," Kemoeatu said. "When I came in as a rookie, I thought I could just use my power to power any center. But every center is powerful, every center is quick and every center is different. I couldn't power Mawae last week. I had to finesse him, because he's a finesse player. I've had to adapt to the different types of players that I've played against."

Carter questionable

Cornerback Dale Carter injured his shoulder in yesterday's practice and is now questionable for tomorrow's game. Carter is the top backup at both cornerback spots and also splits time with Deion Sanders as the nickel (fifth) defensive back.

Fullback Alan Ricard (groin) missed practice for the second straight day, but the team remains confident he could be available.

"Like last week, we have to see how it progresses between now and [tomorrow]," Ravens coach Brian Billick said.

End zone

The Ravens will host a regional flag football tournament for boys and girls ages 9-14 at Druid Hill Park next Saturday. The event is free. For more information, call 1-800-NFL-SNAP. ... Mike Flynn will help host the 2006 Friends of the Baltimore Animal Shelters Calendar Launch Party Tuesday at Ray Lewis' Full Moon Bar-B-Que. Ravens players and coaches posed with their pets for the calendar, which raised more than $70,000 last year for the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter. To purchase a calendar, call 1-866-862-3030.


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