Defensive backs help create chaos


Ivy and Leonhard don't get as much publicity as line, linebackers, but they keep offenses off balance

December 09, 2008|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,

The Ravens' sack attack is built on a foundation of Terrell Suggs, Jarret Johnson and Trevor Pryce. That, however, shouldn't overshadow the defense's use of cornerback Corey Ivy and strong safety Jim Leonhard.

Although Ivy has collected just 1 1/2 sacks and Leonhard has recorded one sack this season, they have frequently blitzed opposing quarterbacks and created havoc in the pocket.

In Sunday night's 24-10 victory over the Washington Redskins, Leonhard was credited with a hit on quarterback Jason Campbell and missed a shared sack with linebacker Ray Lewis by a half-second in the first quarter.

Ivy pressured Campbell into throwing the ball away during one possession in the final period. Even 6-foot-3, 215-pound safety Daren Stone was sent in on a blitz.

"I think we just come with so much," Leonhard said. "The linebackers and D-linemen are so talented that they have to account for them. A lot of times, there's not a whole lot protection-wise they can do. Someone's going to be free, and sometimes it's the smaller guy rather than the bigger guy."

The defensive backs' roles in the pass rush illustrate the objective of a defense crafted by coordinator Rex Ryan. Ryan's schemes are designed to rattle offenses and force them to adjust to the Ravens' defense rather than vice versa.

"You can't just diagram it up and say, 'We're going to account for the four down linemen and the [middle linebacker] in this protection, and the two backs have these two outside linebackers,' " Harbaugh said. "Who is the [middle linebacker]? Who are the two outside backers? Who are the four down linemen? Rex makes it really difficult to define for the pass-protection scheme and basically makes them rule it up in just a more base manner. That's part of Rex's brilliance."

Ivy said he wouldn't be surprised if Ryan drew a package in which only the defensive backs rushed the quarterback, with the defensive linemen dropping into pass coverage.

"We've got the talent out there, and he just maximizes everybody that's available," Ivy said. "You never know when your number's going to be called, so you've got to stay on top of things. ... Each and every one of us, we have a package that we're prepared for every week. So if our number is called, we just run the blitz."

McGahee, Rice OK

Harbaugh did not sound overly pessimistic about the availability of running backs Willis McGahee and rookie Ray Rice for Sunday's game against the AFC North-leading Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium.

McGahee suffered a shoulder stinger in the fourth quarter of Sunday night's game and did not return. "He's OK," Harbaugh said yesterday. "He had a little stinger, had a little tingling and stuff, but he's going to be fine."

Rice is dealing with a bruise on his lower left leg. "We don't think it's anything more than that," Harbaugh said. "We'll see how he does."

Landry progressing

Ravens strong safety Dawan Landry, who is on injured reserve after suffering a spinal cord concussion Sept. 21, said he is making progress toward returning to 100 percent health.

"I'm getting better each and every day," he said in the locker room after Sunday night's win. "I'm just taking my time."

Landry spoke to his younger brother LaRon, a Redskins safety, after the game. "I just told him, 'Good game,' " the elder Landry said. "They lost, but he got in a couple good plays. I guess it's bittersweet for him, but I'm just glad we won."

Worried for the opposition

When Washington was forced to replace five-time Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels (torn right triceps) with guard Justin Geisinger early in the fourth quarter, the first player to issue a note of concern wasn't Campbell. It was Suggs.

"I actually pointed at [Redskins coach] Jim Zorn and said, 'You can't do this; you're going to get your quarterback hurt,' " Suggs told The Washington Post. Suggs promptly dropped Campbell for a 13-yard loss. "I was like, 'I don't think this guy is supposed to be here. You've got a mistake.' "

Samuels was declared out for the season yesterday because of that injury.

End zone

Harbaugh did not seem irritated that he could not challenge whether Campbell fumbled the football after being sacked by Lewis in the first quarter. The officials had ruled that since Campbell's forward progress was stopped by Lewis, the play and the ensuing fumble were dead. "Once they make that determination, it's kind of a judgment call. So they've made it." ... Rookie quarterback Joe Flacco might have earned some toughness points for barreling into Redskins linebacker London Fletcher at the end of a 9-yard scramble in the first quarter, but he will be strongly encouraged to avoid another collision. "We'd rather he slide," Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh praised Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, a fellow Miami of Ohio alum, saying, "They've got a quarterback who went to a great college." ... Linebacker Jameel McClain wished he had gotten more than just a piece of the punt he partially blocked in the first quarter. "I was closer than I thought," he said. "I was just scared that I didn't really want to hit the punter. If I had put two hands out, it would have been a touchdown for somebody on the team." ... Washington became only the fourth team to outscore the Ravens in the fourth quarter this season. It was the first time the Ravens had been outscored in the final period and still won since Week 1's 17-10 victory against the Cincinnati Bengals.

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