Ravens' defense is more conservative nowadays

OWINGS MILLS – The Baltimore Ravens' unique brand of organized chaos intimidated quarterbacks, confused offensive linemen and embarrassed offensive coordinators around the league. Under the direction of ultra-aggressive defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, it was the signature stamp of the Ravens' swaggering defense.

Two seasons removed from Ryan leaving town to become the New York Jets' coach, the defense has changed dramatically.

Especially the pass rush, which has practically skidded to a halt.

The Ravens are ranked 10th in total defense, but are 16th in sacks per pass play. They have generated only 16 sacks. And outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata have accounted for all but 4 ½ of those sacks. Under defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, the Ravens definitely seem to blitz much less than they did with Ryan. And there's very few of the overload blitzes that define Ryan's aggressive approach.

"Having been here with Rex, I was part of that scheme and I tend to believe that we still have that scheme," Mattison said. "If you chart it and you go through it and look and see how many times you blitz and what blitzes you had, I don't know what the numbers were compared to them. Always, the first thing and the only thing we'll ever do is what I feel is best for this defense and what gives us the best chance to win and to put these players in the best position where they can be successful, and that's what we do. .. "To me, it's all about what's best for this defense. I don't go into a game, or I don't come out of a game and say, ‘Oh boy, we only blitzed this many times.' To me, it's what the outcome of the game is. The thing that people talk about is, ‘Did you blitz? How many times did you blitz?' It isn't about that. It's what opportunities you had, what the situation was, and who's in there to blitz, and that's our whole deal." Unless Suggs beats an offensive tackle with an upfield rush or bull rush or Ngata bulldozes into the backfield, the Ravens rarely generate much pressure. Suggs had his first multi-sack game since 2008 when he sacked Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan twice during last week's 26-21 loss at the Georgia Dome.

However, Ryan wasn't hit nearly often enough. He completed 30 of 52 passes for 316 yards, no interceptions and three touchdowns, including the game-winning score to Roddy White.

Suggs said he's confident that the Ravens are creating enough heat on opposing quarterbacks rushing primarily with a four-man rush. "I believe so," said Suggs, a three-time Pro Bowl selection. "Y'all asked me a couple weeks ago, ‘What's the difference between a pressure and a sack?' It wasn't that we wasn't getting there, we just wasn't getting there in time. So, like I said, I think so. Once they come, they come in bunches, so we've just got to get the ball to keep rolling." Although several comparisons have been drawn between Mattison and Ryan, All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis insisted that not much has changed.

He emphasized that the same blitz packages that Ryan embraced still exist in the Ravens' defensive playbook. "It's a copycat league. Everybody kind of does the same exact things," Lewis said. "It's just how much more you do it than the other person does it. I think we do it as equal an amount as we did it even when Rex was here. .. "Sometimes in games you get in there and it may not look like it's like that, but we have a great way of disguising a lot of different things to make it look like something and it's really not." Veteran defensive end Cory Redding joined the Ravens this offseason after signing a two-year, $6 million contract.

However, he has only one sack. Former second-round pick Paul Kruger has no sacks. And starting outside linebacker Jarret Johnson has only a half-sack.

"It could get better," Redding said when asked about the Ravens' pass rush. "Different things happen: schemes, formations, personnel. Guys just have to all get better. All of us have to improve across the table in order for us to get better and be the kind of team we want to be down the stretch."

The Ravens are on pace for just 28 sacks. "It hasn't been great," Johnson said. "We got to them at times. A lot of it has to do with the teams we played the first four games. They didn't throw much. They just pounded the ball. It could be better. It could always be better." Ryan's Jets only have 20 sacks this season. One common thread in many of the Ravens' failures to create more pressure on passing downs is simple enough.

The Ravens are getting blocked. In one-on-one situations, the Ravens have been stonewalled on a repeated basis. Whether it's Suggs or bringing up strong safety Dawan Landry, the offense have been picking up blitzes and preventing the Ravens from hitting the quarterback.

"I always want it to be ramped up more," Mattison said. "The Ravens are notoriously a pressure team, and to me, it's when you bring pressure, it's what the pressure is when you bring it. It's not about how many times it's a pressure. It's when you bring the pressure, you've got to beat a guy one-on-one. I think a lot of times people think that when you blitz, there's a free runner, and that doesn't happen.

"The only thing that blitzing does for you, most of the time , is it gets you one-on-one on somebody, and our guys understand that. We've worked on that hard this week. When you chart the percentage of times that we do blitz, it is up there. When we do blitz, we've got to make sure we beat people one-on-one. And if they get the ball out quick, then it goes to the next phase of defense where we've got to get a lot of people there and we've got to tackle it."

Suggs did nothing to further ignite any controversy or simmering unrest from a fan base accustomed to watching the Ravens harass quarterbacks for years during the Ryan era. "I just work here, man," Suggs said. "Ozzie Newsome didn't draft me to be a defensive coordinator. I just line up and play. I think we're doing a good job. We're 6-3 and ahead in the division, so we've got to be doing something right

Ravens Insider Top Stories