Pollard making his bid to replace Landry
BALTIMORE – The unique nature of the Baltimore Ravens' secondary means that choosing a starting strong safety will ultimately come down to two important traits: performance first as well aschemistry with star free safety Ed Reed.
The former NFL Defensive Player of the Year is known for his gambling instincts, baiting quarterbacks into mistakes. That tends to neccesitate having the other safety be a stay-at-home type who can cover for Reed when he gets a wild hair.
Whether it's Bernard Pollard, Tom Zbikowski or Haruki Nakamura who wins the job opposite Reed, it's going to have to be a comfortable fit.
"With Ed back there, he has to be able to trust the person that he's next to, and I really believe he trusts me 100 percent,"Pollard said. "Ed wants to get down to the nitty-gritty. He likes to stick his head in there and I like to be back in coverage as well. That's my main thing with me coming here, ‘Ed, what do you want to do?'
"Because this guy has played this game at a high level his whole career, and I've played this game at a high level. Me knowing him, I know that dude's a roamer. When he roams, you better be careful. My thing is, I better not catch you slipping, because I'm gonna put you out."
Lately, Pollard is making a strong bid for the position with a start in the Ravens' 31-13 win over the Kansas City Chiefs one week after intercepting a pass against the Philadelphia Eagles.
A former Houston Texans and Chiefs starter, Pollard's work with the first-team defense in practice has become extensive since signing a two-year, $2.735 million contract that includes no signing bonus and a $500,000 roster bonus scheduled for next year.
"I'm excited, I'm happy with where I am," Pollard said. "Obviously, the coaches trust me, my players trust me and that's what it's about: 1 other guys trusting you, knowing you're going to do your job, coming down and filling where you're supposed to fill.
"I wouldn't be out there if the coaches didn't trust me and I wouldn't be out there if the players didn't trust me. I'm a professional, I love the game of football and I just excited because of what we have. Looking towards the future as far as the season, it's going to be exciting."
The Ravens seem to have three viable options at strong safety.
They could go with Pollard, a 6-foot-1, 228-pound enforcer who resembles an outside linebacker.
Pollard led the Texans with 111 tackles last seasonto go with four forced fumbles and 2 1/2sacks. The NFL adopted the so-called Tom Brady rule to protect quarterbacks from lunging tackles after Pollard put the New England Patriots' star out for a season with a low blow that tore his anterior cruciate ligament.
He was also fined $40,000 by the league office last year for his concussion-causing hit on Tennessee Titans wide receiver Justin Gage.
"We'll bring him after the quarterback even if they know it's coming," defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said. "He's a man, he's all man. He'll hit you."
The Ravens also could start Zbikowski, a rangy former third-round draft pick from Notre Dame who started six games last season and doubles as an undefeated professional cruiserweight boxer
And then there's Nakamura, who turned in the top performance of any of the safeties against the Chiefs.
In a reserve role, Nakamura had four tackles and one sack on a safety blitz where he slammed rookie quarterback Ricky Stanzi to the ground.
Midway through the preseason, the competition hardly seems closed even though Pollard has made a power move.
The Ravens started Zbikowski in the first game and Pollard in the second, so it wouldn't be a surprise if Nakamura got his turn this week against the Washington Redskins. If Pollard starts again, it would be a telling indicator about the depth chart and the coaches' thinking.
"Definitely, the biggest thing has just been learning the defense, understanding the terminology and everything else,"Pollard said. "That comes with being a pro. I'm in my playbook every day and I'm learning. I have everything down. It's learning who's next to me, who's going to do this and do that. And if we communicate, we're on point."
The strong safety job became vacant after Dawan Landry signed a five-year, $27.5 million contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars that included a $6.5 million signing bonus after five seasons in Baltimore operating next to Reed.
In terms of build and playing style, Pollard resembles Landry the closest.
"Yeah, there's some similarities, but we're two different players," Pollard said. "He plays his game at a high level, I think I play this game at a high level. I bring so many different things to the game as far as do you want to blitz me or put me back in coverage. What I'm focused on is one thing: winning."
Notebook: Strong return for David Reed, at receiver
BALTIMORE – The football glanced off of Baltimore Ravens wide receiver David Reed, falling to the ground incomplete in the fourth quarter Friday night.
It was his first game back after undergoing offseason wrist surgery to repair a torn ligament and there were some nerves and rust to overcome with Reed dropping his first pass from rookie quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
"I was just a little anxious," said Reed, who had a bag of ice applied to his left wrist after the game in the locker room."I saw Tyrod giving me that look, and it was a good feeling. Then I just wanted to catch it so bad and get up the field and make a move on the receiver that I moved too fast and dropped the ball."
"It feels great to get back to where I was, and it's a blessing that I'm able to catch the way that I used to be catching before I got the surgery. I'd never had an injury like that before, and I couldn't catch the way I normally caught when I did get hurt."
Reed made up for that mistake, though, tying Lee Evans as the Ravens' leading receiver with three receptions for 68 yards in a 31-13 preseason win over the Kansas City Chiefs.
On the same drive, Reed converted a third down with a nine-yard catch, drew a 25-yard pass-interference penalty for another first down and caught an 18-yard pass to set up a touchdown in the ensuing play.
Later, Reed caught a 41-yard pass from Taylor to lead to another touchdown.
"The first drop, obviously I wasn't too happy with,"Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "And then he came back and made the very next catch and then Tyrod came to him again with a big play. To see the guy come up with that play was really huge. For only practicing a few days, that was great to see."
Reed led the NFL in kickoff return average last season with a 29.3 average, and established a franchise record for longest kickoff return with a 103-yard return for a touchdown against the Houston Texans.
"I was so anxious," Reed said. "After that drop, I knew I had to make plays. It's what I do. I'm a receiver. I'm a football player, and it's what I do. I'm glad I'm able to catch like I used to and get back into my groove as a receiver."
Against the Chiefs, Reed averaged 22.7 yards per catch.
"That's what I did all through college," said Reed, a fifth-round draft pick last year out of Utah. "I feel like I can make those plays. That was my thing through high school and college."
Reed now figures into the receiver competition behind starters Anquan Boldin and Evans, competing with rookies Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss for playing time.
"We've got a lot of great receivers," Reed said. "I still got to compete for a job just like the rest of those guys, compete week in and week out in practice and games."
ANOTHER BIG PLAY FOR MCPHEE: One week after he caused a fumble on a sack of Eagles quarterback Mike Kafka that was returned for a touchdown by cornerback Lardarius Webb that was overturned after an instant-replay review, rookie defensive end Pernell McPhee was at it again.
The aggressive fifth-round draft pick from Mississippi State crushed Chiefs quarterback Tyler Palko in the second quarter for a sack. However, the fumble ruling was overturned on an instant-replay challenge.
Nonetheless, the Ravens are highly impressed with McPhee's motor.
"The guy has what we call Raven traits," defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said. "He plays like a Raven. I mean, he's relentless. He's a violent, violent football player. So, this guy is a great kid. He doesn't say anything; he just comes in here every day and he's like a sponge.
"He's soaking everything up, and then he comes out to practice and he's just going at a thousand miles per hour. He's nonstop, and he's getting better every day. I think his production in the game is just a byproduct of what he's doing during the week."
For McPhee, it's getting a tad frustrating to have his sacks and forced fumbles nullified by officials.
"You've just got to stay humble and stay focused," he said. "I'm just trying to keep my mind straight and continue to run to the ball. It's a lot of frustration because this is my opportunity to show the coaches that I'm worth playing for the Ravens' defense."
CODY EXCELS: With former Raven nose guard Kelly Gregg lining up for the Chiefs, his replacement wanted to prove he was up to the task of stepping in for him.
Terrence Cody had two tackles, holding up well against the Chiefs' offensive line.
"It going to be tough trying to replace Kelly," Cody said. "He was great around here and he's still missed, but it's my time to step up and just make plays. He's a good man, a great man.
"I feel real positive about how I played. I did some good things out there and made a couple of plays. I kind of affected other players, too. I want to show Kelly I can play like him."
FOXWORTH MAKES PRESEASON DEBUT: One year after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament and missing an entire season, Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth made a quiet, uneventful preseason debut.
"It felt good, I'm happy to be back out there doing stuff,"Foxworth said. "It wasn't emotional at all. The knee felt really good. I'll just keep working. Fortunately, we have enough talent that it doesn't matter who we put out there."
The Ravens started Jimmy Smith and Cary Williams with Chris Carr out with a hamstring injury, Foxworth coming off his knee injury and had Lardarius Webb operate as the nickel back.
"I'm really impressed with Jimmy and Cary," Foxworth siad. "I've been singing their praises for a while. I'm happy to see it translate on the field."
A member of the NFL Players Association Executive committee, Foxworth fiercely negotiated against Chiefs owner Clark Hunt. Before the game, though, they enjoyed no longer being adversaries.
"We had a nice little pregame conversation, a talk and a hug," Foxworth said. "I'm sure he's happy to be where he is and I'm happy to be where I am."
OFFENSIVE LINE IMPROVES: The Ravens allowed only two sacks one week after surrendering six against the Philadelphia Eagles.
And starting quarterback Joe Flacco wasn't sacked.
Rookie right tackle Jah Reid seemed to make the most improvement, but did have a false start.
"I feel like I improved," Reid said. "I know there's a long way to go, and I just need to keep working. I want to help this team the best way I can, and I know it's going to take a lot of hard work in practice to get there. I think I progressed. They worked with me hard and told me to try to improve week to week.
"I thought I had a little more confidence in what I was doing. I knew a little more about what I was doing out there. I felt I matched the opponents' speed. It was good, but I still have a long way to go."
Oniel Cousins looked much more comfortable playing inside at right guard than he did at right tackle last week even though he had a false start.
He delivered a key block on Ray Rice's 26-yard touchdown run.
" I enjoyed playing there and I'm glad we won the game," Cousins said. "We improved from last week. That's the most important thing. We're going to watch the tape, and we're going to try to fix it and be better next week."
The pressure was on.
Afterward, Harbaugh was approving in his comments about the offensive line.
"I thought the protection was pretty good," Harbaugh said. "I think in practice, we got more pressure, and Joe was kind of ready to move out. Then, the young line stepped up on the right side and really did a pretty good job. I can't wait to see the tape and see how it worked out, but I thought the line did OK. We'll see on tape, though."
The Ravens also rushed for 114 yards on 24 carries, and former Ravens nose guard Kelly Gregg was impressed with center Bryan Mattison.
"He is doing great," Gregg said. "He has a bright future."
HAREWOOD IS BACK: Offensive tackle Ramon Harewood played in his first game since being activated from the physically unable to perform list.
Harewood missed his entire rookie season after undergoing surgeries on both knees.
"It's a part of taking the field, you get the butterflies and all that," Harewood said. "After the first play, I was straight, though. I'll give myself a passing grade, but there's still room for lots of improvement.
"I've got to work a lot on my pass sets, staying square to the line of scrimmage, working on keeping my post foot up and not getting beat inside. Other than that, just basic stuff."
Harewood is a potentially valuable swing player for the Ravens since he can play left tackle or right tackle.
"I'll play wherever they need me to play," Harewood said.
The former sixth-round draft pick from Morehouse was happy to not have any setbacks with his knees.
"That's the first thing I'm thanking God for," he said. "I'm still healthy. I'll watch the film, but I think as of right now, I did all right. But the eye in the sky never lies."
DICKSON RETURNS: After missing the first preseason game with a hamstring injury, tight end Ed Dickson started and caught one pass for four yards.
"It felt good to get my hands on the ball a couple times and be a part of the offense after sitting out a couple days," Dickson said. "I still have to shake off some rust, but I'm getting there."
RICKY WILLIAMS DEBUT: Backup running back Ricky Williams had a solid game in his debut with the Ravens since signing a two-year contract.
The 34-year-old didn't put up big numbers, though, rushing for 14 yards on four carries in relief of Ray Rice.
"It was a great experience," Williams said. "It's been an acclimation and it's been difficult a little bit, getting used to the way things are done around here.
"It's nice because I think our running backs complement each other. I'm the kind of guy that likes to get downhill and run hard. Ray definitely hits homeruns. Teams are definitely going to have trouble with us this year."
SPECIAL TEAMS: Outside linebacker Sergio Kindle is known mostly for his pass rushing ability, but the former All-Big 12 pass rusher displayed another facet of his game.
He nearly blocked two punts, narrowly missing the football.
"I had the wrong block technique,"Kindle said. "You're supposed to have your hands out and I had my hands up. Happy about the rush, but unhappy about the end result."
Kindle missed his entire rookie season with a fractured skull, so contributing and playing at all is a positive.
"The organization kept me here for a reason, and I'm just happy that I get a chance to prove to them that I've still got what they saw back in Texas," said Kindle, a second-round draft pick last year from the University of Texas. "That's why I'm here. It feels good just to contribute to this organization, this team, this defense, because it don't get no better than that."
"With time, I'll fine-tune my skills even more, but I don't think I'm where I need to be until I actually get a sack, you know? Close ain't good enough. I need to get there."
TERP RISING: For the second game in a row, undrafted rookie wide receiver LaQuan Williams had a big game.
He caught a 38-yard pass from third-string quarterback Hunter Cantwell to lead to the Ravens' final touchdown.
"LaQuan has been a downfield threat," said Harbaugh. "He's an interesting study, because at Maryland, I think it was the injuries that kind of held him back. He was a proven special-teams player, which is close to my heart. He's come out here and played really well.
"We've got some great competition. Marcus Smith is right in there battling for a spot. Justin Harper, Brandon Jones fighting for those last receiver spots. We've got some good players battling for those spots, and LaQuan is one of them."
Through two preseason games, Williams has caught four passes for 84 yards to rank second on the team behind tight end Dennis Pitta (five catches, 51 yards).
" My focus is to make a play every day," Williams said. "Tyrod is going to come out throwing the ball and I'm going to catch it. Coach wanted to give us a shot. It was about giving the young guys an opportunity to see what we had."
ELLERBE GETS THE START: With middle linebacker Ray Lewis excused from the game due to his aunt's illness, Dannell Ellerbe started at inside linebacker next to Jameel McClain.
Ellerbe split a sack with cornerback Lardarius Webb, finishing with three tackles. Tavares Gooden was out with a neck injury, but it was a nod of respect for Ellerbe to start over Brendon Ayanbadejo.
"It felt good to be out there with the ones," Ellerbe said. "It felt good starting. It's been a long time since I started. I felt like I played average. I didn't make that many plays I feel like I could have played better."
Ellerbe started five games, including the playoffs, as a rookie two years ago.
However, he was beaten out by McClain last year for the starting job after struggling with his weight during the offseason and drawing the ire of the coaching staff for tardiness issues.
"It's good to know they have faith in me to step in there for Ray," Ellerbe said. "All of that stuff is behind me. I'm just out there playing like anybody else."
Ravens agree to terms with OT Mark LeVoir
OWINGS MILLS -- The Baltimore Ravens agreed to terms with former New England Patriots offensive tackle Mark LeVoir on Saturday following a workout, according to his agent, Eric Metz.
Looking to bolster their depth on the offensive line, the Ravens tried out LeVoir and former Tennessee Titans center-guard Jason Murphy.
Given the Ravens' offensive line situation, it's a strong possibility that the Ravens will add Murphy to the roster as soon as today. The Ravens would need to cut some players to do so.
LeVoir, 29, was claimed off waivers by the Patriots from the St. Louis Rams three years ago following a previous stint with the Chicago Bears.
Originally signed by the Bears as a rookie free agent in 2006 out of Notre Dame, the 6-foot-7, 310-pounder played in 32 games, including two starts over three seasons in New England.
LeVoir reportedly refused to take a paycut in New England, leading to his release three days ago.
LeVoir played in six games last season for the Patriot, seeing most of his action in short-yardage situations as a tight end and on special teams.
He played left tackle against the New York Jets and the New Orleans Saints.
A Parade Magazine and USA Today All-American in high school as a tight end who also played fullback, tailback, wide receiver and punter, LeVoir was a three-year starter for the Fighting Irish offensive line.
Murphy, 29, is a 6-foot-2, 304-pound Baltimore native who has previously played for the Titans, San Diego Chargers and the Seattle Seahawks. He has also played in the United Football League with the New York Sentinels and Florida Tuskers.
Murphy played collegiately at Virginia Tech.
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