Ravens' Defense Shows Muscle Early

Baltimore linebacker Tyson Smith closes in on Washington quarterback and fellow rookie Jason Campbell during the teams' scrimmage at M& T Bank Stadium.
Baltimore linebacker Tyson Smith closes in on Washington quarterback and fellow rookie Jason Campbell during the teams' scrimmage at M& T Bank Stadium. (By Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)
By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 7, 2005

BALTIMORE, Aug. 6 -- The Baltimore Ravens' defense always has had a swagger, and it's only grown since Rex Ryan took over as defensive coordinator, promising aggressive new looks.

The Ravens' pressure was on display in their scrimmage against the Washington Redskins on Saturday afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium; the only series involving the Ravens' starting defense against Washington's starting offense featured four sacks -- one from defensive end Terrell Suggs, one from linebacker Ray Lewis and two from cornerback Deion Sanders. Two from Sanders?

"I love it," said Suggs, who has 22 1/2 sacks in his two-year professional career. "My job is definitely threatened after today. I've got to go back to the drawing board and get after it."

Of course, it should be noted that tackling the quarterback was not allowed in the scrimmage. All a player had to do to get credit for a sack was to get into the backfield close to the passer, and the play was whistled dead.

Baltimore's starting defense was on the field for 15 plays against the Redskins' starters; eight of them resulted in no gain or a loss. The Ravens used their new 4-6 package for only a handful of plays.

"We didn't even give y'all a taste," Suggs said with a grin. "That was just us; good football players making plays. I don't even think we blitzed all that much."

Lewis intercepted a Patrick Ramsey pass during seven-on-seven drills. During the scrimmage, he burst up the middle to get credit for a sack and applied pressure to Ramsey that resulted in one of Sanders's sacks. He also dropped fullback Rock Cartwright for a one-yard loss and led the Ravens with four tackles.

Lewis is known as a physical, aggressive player. Sanders is not; he likely is headed to the Hall of Fame because of his coverage skills as a cornerback. But as a nickel back for the Ravens, he might get the chance to do some different things.

In his 13 previous NFL seasons, Sanders had one sack. Naturally, he could recite the pertinent details of that play without missing a beat: "Atlanta, '90 or '91, Hostetler, sack, fumble and touchdown." Sanders was with the Atlanta Falcons in 1991 when he sacked New York Giants quarterback Jeff Hostetler, and the hit resulted in a fumble and touchdown.

"Playing the nickel, it allows me to show a little more versatility," Sanders said. "I've never been in the position where I've blitzed on occasion, but now I can do either or. Drop into zone coverage or man, or blitz. It's going to be something."

Defense has never been a major concern with the Ravens; the offense, however, usually is. The Ravens were without two of their offensive centerpieces -- running back Jamal Lewis and tight end Todd Heap (shoulder and ankle) -- but got a big contribution from wide receiver Patrick Johnson (four catches for 62 yards), who is battling for a roster spot.

Both starter Kyle Boller (4 for 6, 44 yards) and backup Anthony Wright (4 for 6, 89 yards) were sharp. Boller opened the scrimmage with a drive that resulted in a 38-yard field goal from Matt Stover. Wright, who underwent shoulder surgery last year and has not appeared in a game since January 2004, connected with a diving Johnson on a 32-yard touchdown pass and also hit Clarence Moore for a 44-yard gain earlier in the drive.

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