McNair stays cool under pressure in pocket

ON THE RAVENS

Ravens Vs. Redskins

September 01, 2006|By MIKE PRESTON

LANDOVER -- Ravens quarterback Steve McNair doesn't need a lot of time to throw, just a little space up the middle.

Even when pressure comes from the outside or off the perimeter, McNair has enough pocket awareness to succeed, much like the New England Patriots' Tom Brady. A couple of times last night in the first quarter in the final preseason game against the Washington Redskins, McNair eluded pressure by taking a step to his right, or left, or by just stepping up in the pocket.

On the Ravens' first play of their second possession that ended in a 15-yard touchdown pass from McNair to receiver Mark Clayton, McNair completed a 35-yard pass to Devard Darling by stepping up in the pocket. McNair made a similar play later in the drive on an 8-yard completion to running back Musa Smith.

It was totally different last week against Minnesota because the Vikings got pressure on the Ravens both inside and outside, and there was no place to escape.

McNair was four of six for 62 yards while playing only the first 14 minutes. He seemed to get sharper as the game progressed, and you can tell he still needs time working with some of the receivers, like Clarence Moore and Darling. More than once, their timing was off working comeback routes, but Darling did a nice job of heading back to the quarterback once McNair got into trouble.

Moore missed extensive time in training camp with a sports hernia, and Darling had a heel injury.

After a week of criticism, the Ravens' offensive line turned in a solid performance against the Redskins. There doesn't need to be judgment every week because the verdict is virtually in on this group.

When the Ravens play against a team that has a really good defensive line, they'll struggle and probably lose. Otherwise, they'll be competitive. The Ravens, though, won't wait for this unit to self-destruct like last season when they waited until late in the season before starting some young players. Second-year tackle Adam Terry and guard-center Jason Brown will play if center Mike Flynn, right guard Keydrick Vincent and right tackle Tony Pashos struggle.

There are some in the organization who believe Brown will replace Flynn or Vincent before the season is over.

Move over Ray Lewis.

There is no doubt that this is still Lewis' team, but the team's two best linebackers in preseason were on the outside - Bart Scott and Adalius Thomas. Scott has been a ferocious hitter and relentless in his pursuit of ball carriers. Scott had five tackles in the first half last night.

Meanwhile, Lewis has been aggressive, but over-pursuing runners. Lewis wants to prove that he is still a dominant player, but he might be trying too hard. He's in good position, but seems too anxious to make a play.

It's only preseason, but the Redskins look terrible.

They have no passing game, have no running game and their defense looks absolutely confused at times. In the first half last night, the Redskins had only 3 yards passing while giving up 144 to the Ravens. On one of the Ravens' scoring drives, the Redskins had stopped the Ravens when Matt Stover missed a 49-yard field-goal attempt, but the Redskins had 12 players on the field. Seven plays later, the Ravens scored.

As the Redskins left the field at halftime, their beloved fans at half-filled FedEx Field booed them.

There have to be times when Washington coach Joe Gibbs wished he were back on the NASCAR circuit, and last night had to be one of them.

As the preseason has gone on, defensive end Terrell Suggs has revved his engine up more and more each week. In the past two preseason games, Suggs has put a lot of pressure on quarterbacks, and he looks like he is peaking heading into the season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"Going into Tampa, you have to make sure that everything is right," Suggs said. "We didn't have one of our corners out there tonight [Chris McAlister], but I think once we get all 11 of us out there on the field, we will be just fine."

"Tonight, I definitely liked the intensity we had and the way we were all over the field. That's something you feed off and take with you into next week."

This and that. Ravens outside linebacker-defensive end Dan Cody also looks more comfortable. At the beginning of training camp, he was stiff and relied more on speed than technique. Now, he is attempting more moves and the Ravens will probably give him some playing time during the season, probably as a third-down pass rusher. ...

Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, the team's top draft pick out of Oregon, the youngster has some work to do. He relies too much on power and allows offensive linemen to get into his body. He is slow and seldom penetrates. The potential is there, but this might be more of a project than the Ravens bargained for when they selected Ngata with the 12th overall pick. ...

If the Ravens are going to use a short passing attack, how about throwing some flares to Clayton out of the backfield. He's a great open-field runner, possibly the best on the team. ...

Third-year backup guard Brian Rimpf (hamstring) might be headed to injured reserve. This hurts the Ravens' depth because Rimpf started seven games last season. ...

Safety Dawan Landry, a rookie and fifth-round pick, has a lot of confidence, and is extremely physical. He has been a major addition while rookie cornerback David Pittman, a third-round draft selection, has been a disappointment. Pittman still has an upside, but his development has been slow. mike.preston@baltsun.com

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