Ravens know this line of attack isn't working RAVENS INSIDER

RAVENS INSIDER

October 24, 2008|By mike.preston@baltsun.com | mike.preston@baltsun.com,mike.preston@baltsun.com

The Ravens have 12 sacks in six games, which might be good for some teams, but not for the Ravens. Of the 12, just three have come from defensive linemen.

It has gotten to the point where you don't have to tell them about the problem; they're talking about it themselves.

"I don't know if you guys have noticed - I haven't gotten any sacks yet," Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said. "So I'm working on pass rushing."

And so are end Trevor Pryce and tackles Justin Bannan and Marques Douglas. One of the characteristics of a great defense is that it can get pressure from its front four without having to blitz, and this group needs to take the next step.

Nearly two weeks ago, one of the reasons the Indianapolis Colts' Peyton Manning tore apart the Ravens' secondary was the lack of pressure. Against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, quarterback Chad Pennington threw for 295 yards, also because there wasn't much pressure.

If the Ravens can get to the quarterback, it would take much pressure off a patched-up secondary filled with injuries. It's not a main area of concern for the Ravens yet, but it has coach John Harbaugh scratching his head.

"There are several reasons why we haven't gotten pressure at certain times," Harbaugh said. "Last week against Miami, we played a lot of eight-man coverage because they got rid of the ball so quickly, as opposed to the week before and how we played Manning. Overall, we're pleased with our defensive play, but I'd like to see those guys get more pressure."

For players such as Ngata (6 feet 4, 345 pounds) and Bannan (6-3, 310 pounds), it might be a technique issue. Because of their bulk and width, they have become one of the better run-stopping tandems in the NFL. They draw many double-teams inside.

But Warren Sapp drew many double-teams inside, and he could get after a quarterback. Former Ravens defensive tackle Sam Adams was a wide-body, and he could collapse a pocket or get an occasional sack.

And then there is the Tennessee Titans' Albert Haynesworth, who is the complete package as far as stopping the run and getting pressure.

"I'm trying to watch film on guys my size and seeing what they're doing to get to the quarterback," Ngata said. "It's hard to watch guys, those edge rushers, because they're fast. That's not my game. I'm more of a power guy. I've just got to work hard, keep defeating my guy and get to the quarterback."

Bannan said: "Without a doubt, we want to make sure that we put as much pressure on him as possible. Obviously, we're very capable against the run; now we have to get better in the other area."

Pryce has two sacks. That's not up to his standards, but he still has played well. Not to make excuses, but he does get held a lot. And there have been other times when he has arrived a split second too late.

But what his teammates like about Pryce is the attention he gets.

"That's the one guy on our defensive line you have to make sure you block," outside linebacker Jarret Johnson said. "I like playing behind him because Trevor collapses a pocket so well that sometimes the other team can't see you. You can hide behind him."

But the Ravens' outside linebackers are also out in front of Pryce and his line mates in coming to their defense. According to Johnson, the Ravens rushed only three linemen most of the time against Miami.

He also pointed out that sometimes he and fellow outside linebacker Terrell Suggs become defensive ends on third-down passing situations. Suggs leads the team with four sacks, and Johnson has one.

"Miami threw a lot to their backs, so we played a lot more coverage than rushing the quarterback," Johnson said. "But Sizzle [Suggs] and I are part of the third-down package. Personally, I like the different things we do to try to get to the quarterback.

"Everybody would like to go get the quarterback instead of dropping into coverage, but we like to do different things, create a lot of different looks."

In fact, Ngata and Bannan create room for blitzing inside linebackers such as Ray Lewis and Bart Scott, each of whom has a sack. They also open up lanes for blitzing safeties.

"That's part of our job, too - to set things up for our teammates," Bannan said. "We just got to make sure we execute."

Overall, defensive coordinator Rex Ryan asks his linemen to do a lot. But there is still one basic requirement, and that's getting to the quarterback.

"We've just got to work hard as defensive linemen to show different looks from the front and try to confuse the O-line so that we can get to the quarterback," Ngata said. "We've got to step it up and get better."

Listen to Mike Preston on Mondays from 4 to 6 p.m. on Fox Sports (1370 AM).

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