Leaky pass defense should concern Ravens

Team allowed 401 yards through air against Redskins Saturday

August 23, 2010|By Mike Preston

The Ravens tried to downplay giving up 401 passing yards to the Washington Redskins Saturday night, but this should set off an alarm. In fact, finding answers to this problem should be a major concern heading into Game 3 of the preseason Saturday night against the New York Giants.

It's not time to panic, but the Ravens gave up 206 passing yards to Donovan McNabb and 195 to Rex Grossman. This might not raise an eyebrow if it had been Peyton Manning and his group of receivers, but this was McNabb and Grossman without a strong supporting cast.

"I was [pleased] generally," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "I thought they played pretty well back there. The passing yards are a concern obviously. When I stood up there after the game, I didn't realize they threw for that many yards against us because I felt like we were playing pretty well for the most part. They got some chunks on some plays that they made. Some of it was the way we play our two-deep coverage. We've got to work some things out there.

"Some of it was the way we play our quarters coverage. We've got to work a few things out there. I think that's what preseason is for. I think the players themselves did a good job, but we don't want to give up that many passing yards at all."

Going into the preseason games, you thought the Ravens secondary would struggle with injuries to starting cornerback Domonique Foxworth and safety Ed Reed. But Washington went after Ravens cornerback Travis Fisher and attacked the middle of the field with relative ease.

Even more disturbing was the coverage of the Ravens linebackers. At times, they didn't appear to know who was supposed to cover who and in what areas. They didn't get a lot of depth on their drops and were confused by the crossing patterns run by the Redskins.

Questions on 'o' line

The Ravens upgraded at wide receiver during the offseason, but if the passing game is to improve, they have to get better pass protection from the offensive line.

It's a group that has potential because most of these players are about to enter their peak years, but there are still a lot of questions after the first two preseason games.

Can veteran center Matt Birk remain healthy? Will injured right tackle Jared Gaither (back) be ready for the season opener? And now, you have to wonder about second-year tackle Michael Oher on the left side. He has struggled in both games and at times needs to use more finesse than muscle. He needs to extend his arms and use his hands more to keep opponents away from his body.

Parmele steps up

The Ravens have to be glad that third-year running back Jalen Parmele has stepped his game up recently. If the Ravens trade running back Willis McGahee for a cornerback, they now know they have an all-around running back behind starter Ray Rice in Parmele.

Fullback Le'Ron McClain would be the No. 2 runner behind Rice if a trade is made, but he isn't the complete back coordinator Cam Cameron prefers in the backfield, especially in passing situations.

Kruger improving

Second-year defensive end-outside linebacker Paul Kruger made significant progress during the offseason, and it has been evident the past two weeks.

Kruger has reached the point where he will do well against second-string offensive linemen, but he'll struggle against first-team performers. It would be nice if the Ravens could work him into some kind rotation during the regular season, but it appears Kruger might still be another year away.

Overall, though, the Ravens have to be happy with his progress

Bulger looking good

Some of the good qualities possessed by backup quarterback Marc Bulger are his quick release and the way he can throw from any position at nearly any time.

Bulger can throw sidearm, over the top and even from a three-quarters position. If he were younger, most coaches would try to change that and get him to throw from one consistent motion.

"It's too late for that," Cameron said recently. "He has had success with that, so you don't mess with it at this point. Doug Flutie was another one who had several different throwing motions to avoid getting passes knocked down."

The more Bulger plays, the better he looks.

New cornerback likely

If the Ravens are going to make a trade or acquire another cornerback, it's going to happen soon. After the second preseason game, most teams have an accurate assessment of strengths and weaknesses. It also still allows ample time for new players to get adjusted to a new system and philosophy.

It's hard to imagine the Ravens making any major deals, but they will still likely add a cornerback before the start of the regular season. The Ravens moved Lardarius Webb from the physically unable to perform list Monday, but they still don't know if his injured knee will be ready for the season opener.

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