Ravens' short-lived interest in Merriman could hint at pass-rushing weakness

November 03, 2010|By Kevin Van Valkenburg, The Baltimore Sun

Even though the Ravens did hint that they might be interested in acquiring Shawne Merriman if he cleared waivers Wednesday, the decision was quickly taken out of their hands when the Buffalo Bills claimed, agreeing to pay the rest of Merriman's $3.26 million salary.

Just the fact that the team was discussing adding Merriman seems to be a sign that the Ravens are acknowledging they have to address their inability to sack the quarterback in recent weeks, but coach John Harbaugh repeated his assertion that Baltimore's pass rush has been better than people think.

"I see a lot of good things in the pass rush," Harbaugh said. "But as coaches, you always see things that need to get better. What [the media] talks about all the time is the number of sacks. Absolutely, we want more sacks. We definitely want to get more hits on the quarterback. We have pressure. In the Buffalo game, it wasn't the issue in my mind, because the ball was coming out so fast. We forced some quick throws."

But quarterback pressures, though nice, are not as valuable as sacks. Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs leads the team in sacks with 3 1/2, but he ranks 35th in the NFL in that category.

"I don't have as many sacks as I'd like," Suggs said. "It's not how you start. It's how you finish. I think I did a solid job in the first half of the season. We just have to have more emphasis as a team of all us getting back there and getting some more."

Suggs says he's aware that people are frustrated he hasn't posted better individual numbers. Over his past three games, he has one sack and two quarterback hits.

"But I ask myself every day, 'Would I rather have eight sacks like DeMarcus Ware and be 1-6?' " Suggs said. "I don't think so. So I'll take what I have right now with the winning record, and we just have to get more sacks. ... I think we're going to start getting them, not just myself, but as a team. It's just going to start happening for us."

The Ravens have totaled 12 sacks as a team, the ninth-fewest in the NFL, but lately the issue has become more complicated, and arguably a bit of a Catch-22 for this team. They can't get more sacks unless they cover better in the secondary, and they can't cover better in the secondary unless they get more pressure on the quarterback.

"It's got to be a point of emphasis for everybody, not just one guy," Suggs said. "If you look at guys around the league, everybody is getting after the passer whether you're looking at Dallas or New York or even the Colts. They got numerous guys with a knack of getting after the quarterback. When teams take it upon themselves to get guys after the quarterback, that's where all the sacks come from."

The Dolphins aren't the best opponent to increase your sack total against. Quarterback Chad Henne has been sacked just 10 times this season.

"They do a great job protecting him, so we have to get after him," Ray Lewis said.

Zbikowski doubtful

Despite no longer having to walk around in a boot to protect his bruised right heel, safety Tom Zbikowski sounded doubtful about playing this Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.

"A little bit," Zbikowski said Wednesday of improvement in the foot. "It's hard to tell. It's starting to get there. I'm starting to walk on it a little bit better. I'm just really taking it day-by-day."

Zbikowski, the starting free safety for the Ravens' first six games and the primary punt returner, sustained the injury in an overtime loss to the New England Patriots on Oct. 17 and subsequently sat out the team's overtime win against the Buffalo Bills seven days later.

Zbikowski said the injury has affected the Achilles tendon and a bursa sac in the foot, but he wasn't quite sure whether he was dealing with plantar fasciitis, an injury to the tissue on the bottom of the foot that could potentially end his season.

"I've got a little pain in that area," he said. "… The heel kind of had an effect on that area, and then the bursa sac and the Achilles and stuff is still a little irritated. It's one of those things where you bump it and it just gets irritated, and you just keep trying to progress as much as you can. Trying to put back-to-back workouts in and trying to start strengthening it up again."

For now, Zbikowski said he has tried to ramp up his recovery, but he acknowledged that he has been limited.

"I lay on the table, try to read, and try to walk," he said. "That's about it. It's pretty exciting. It's two treatments a day, and I'm trying to get back out there as fast as I can. But it's something that really can't be rushed. You don't want to mess around with that area."

Lewis resting on laurels?

Last week, Lewis was recognized as the 18th greatest player in NFL history, according to the NFL Network. On Wednesday, the Ravens inside linebacker sounded grateful for the recognition, but he also said that ranking shouldn't be final.

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