OWINGS MILLS – Cornerbacks and safeties barreling toward the line of scrimmage while bulky defensive linemen backpedal into coverage and chase wide receivers and running backs, a strange reversal of traditional defensive roles. The New York Jets' creative brand of organized chaos is built on the precepts of Buddy Ryan, the father of Rex Ryan.
The Ryan family never met a blitz they didn't like, or couldn't draw up in the dirt. The only limit on their defensive prowess is their imagination.
"They're very innovative," Baltimore Ravens six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk said. "They do things that nobody else does, nobody else has seen before, nobody else has ever thought of. And they do a great job of, not just their coaches, but their players understand it. They understand what they need to do, what gap they need to be in, how they need to rush.
"That's why they've been so good for so long. The players have a great understanding of what's going on as well. We'll just study the best we can and go out and do the best we can. They're the masters at creating confusion."
Since 2009, the Jets have stymied opposing quarterbacks to the tune of a 51.8 completion percentage and a 67.9 passer rating.
Last season, 14 different Jets combined for 40 sacks to rank eight behind the NFL leaders, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
To block the aggressive Jets' defenders, the mandate is to expect the unexpected.
"They will bring every guy and they will drop every guy," offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. "There's only a few teams in the league that you really can say that, looking at your chart. Every defensive lineman eventually drops into coverage. Every defensive back, for the most part, either has blitzed this year, or last year, or the year before.
"There are 11 guys over there, you account for all 11. You try to make sure that doesn't put you in a mindset of hesitancy, because you still want to be physical. You better have everybody on the same page, everybody communicating what they are seeing."
So far this season, the Jets have seven sacks with six different players recording at least one sack.
That includes two sacks from former Ravens inside linebacker Bart Scott and one sack apiece from cornerback Kyle Wilson, safety Eric Smith, inside linebacker David Harris, outside linebacker Calvin Pace and rookie defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson.
"It's all over the place," Birk said. "Sometimes, the number the guy wears is irrelevant. You have a safety lined up at defensive end. You have a defensive lineman lined up at linebacker."
Since Ryan became the defensive coordinator in Baltimore in 2005 and extending through his tenure with the Jets, his defenses rank first in total defense, passing defense and third-down defense.
"We've seen them blitz a lot," offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie said. "They're creative."
To counteract the Jets' off-the-wall schemes engineered by Ryan and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, it's paramount that the Ravens communicate effectively
That means line calls from Birk to the offensive linemen and quarterback Joe Flacco being ready to change protections and play calls on the fly.
"It can be pretty stressful, and you know they're going to show you stuff and do stuff that they haven't done yet," Birk said. "You can only prepare so much, but you study hard. The important thing is that we communicate and get everybody on the same page. If everybody knows where everybody is going, then Joe can do what he needs to do.
"You obviously want to be successful and move the ball and get points and all that, but part of that is avoiding the catastrophic play, and that's something they're pretty good at. They're good at making plays. They've got a lot of playmakers on their defense, so I guess you just do the best you can."
The Jets' defense is coming off one of its worst games in the Ryan era.
They allowed 234 rushing yards in a 34-24 loss to the Oakland Raiders, a setback where Pettine questioned the Jets' effort.
There were no interceptions. Their only sack occurred when quarterback Jason Campbell tripped over his own feet.
"We tell our guys, just because you have the decal on, there's nothing magical about it," Pettine told New York reporters. "It's how we practice and the mentality we take, and the disappointing thing is for all the time we put into this, we only get a set number of opportunities to go out there and compete. So much time, so much preparation is put into one game, and to waste a game defensively like that and not play to our standards is obviously disappointing."
Nonetheless, the Ravens are preparing full-bore for the Jets defense that made New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady look ordinary during the playoffs last season.
"They come from everywhere," offensive tackle Michael Oher said. "It gets hectic."
Notebook: Jets don't expect a repeat performance from Torrey Smith
OWINGS MILLS – Torrey Smith went from obscure rookie to NFL curiosity in the handful of seconds it took him to streak past the St. Louis Rams' secondary for three touchdown catches in the first quarter a week ago
Not even the Baltimore Ravens' speedy rookie wide receiver expects himself to replicate the breakout performance, though, Sunday night against the New York Jets.
"I'm not really concerned with trying to top what happened last week," Smith said. "I know that's tough to do. I just want to keep getting better. I know I'm not going to play like that every week. There's still going to be ups and downs. Just because I played well that one game doesn't mean I don't have to continue to work and get better."
Consider the Jets as not exactly shaking in their cleats about Smith, the Ravens' second-round draft pick from the University of Maryland.
They don't anticipate him scorching cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie.
"He's a fast guy and all that kind of stuff, but I don't think he'll have equal success this week," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "If he does, then I'll just stay in Baltimore. If we just based everything on that performance then we'd have our cornerbacks about 20 yards deep. We've played against speed receivers in the past and we'll have an idea on how to play him. If we want to shut him down, we can always just put Revis on him."
Smith caught touchdown passes from 74, 41 and 18 yards against the Rams, all against hapless cornerback Justin King.
Smith will line up across from Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who's expected to play despite bruised ribs and lungs with the help of a protective vest. And Revis will draw the assignment of guarding Anquan Boldin.
Cromartie doesn't sound worried about Smith.
"He had one big game, that's it," Cromartie told New York reporters. "He has five catches for his whole career. He has a three-game career."
Nonetheless, the Jets will have to account for Smith after what he did in St. Louis.
"Obviously, he's proven that he can do it," coach John Harbaugh said. "It's something we had seen in practice. It's exactly what we saw at Maryland. That's why we drafted him, because we knew he could go get a deep ball. He can go up and get a ball and he can go chase a ball downfield. He proved that.
"Teams are going to have to defend that. And that's real. And, if they don't defend it, then we'll complete it over their heads. So, it's going to be a factor as long as he's playing out there."
Smith garnered quite a bit of attention since his big game, locking up his Twitter account and flooding his cell phone with text messages.
"It was a record number," Smith said. "I had a few hundred text messages. My Twitter page, my app had a bunch of zeroes and everything was kind of jammed up."
GRUBBS RETURNS TO PRACTICE: Ravens offensive guard Ben Grubbs' turf toe is improving to the point where he returned to practice Thursday on a limited basis.
Grubbs had been sidelined since playing in the Ravens' Sept. 11 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers when he first hurt his right toe.
"That was a huge step, first time jogging since I had the injury," said Grubbs, who has missed the past two games. "That was the upside of the situation. The downside is it's sore. I wouldn't say it's more sore than it usually is, but it's pretty sore. I'll go out there and see what I can today. Hopefully, it will loosen up and I'll be ready to go."
Grubbs remains a question mark for Sunday night's game against the New York Jets. If he can't go, Andre Gurode will start in his place at left guard for the second week in a row.
"My thought process is just to take baby steps," Grubbs said. "Hopefully, by Sunday I'll be ready to go."
Grubbs acknowledged that he might just be rested until after the bye week. He also said he could potentially take a pain-killing injection to numb the toe.
"Yeah, I'm taking that into consideration," he said. "I would still say I'm a game-time decision. Hopefully when Sunday night gets here I'll be ready to go. With all the things I can take before the game, shots, that should put me over the top."
INJURY UPDATES: Center Matt Birk (left knee) and defensive end Cory Redding (right turf toe) returned to practice after being sidelined Wednesday, participating fully.
Wide receivers Lee Evans (left ankle) and David Reed (left shoulder), safety Haruki Nakamura (right posterior cruciate ligament), cornerback Jimmy Smith (left high ankle sprain) and inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (strained left hamstring) didn't practice again.
Nakamura is out for at least a month.
Meanwhile, Cromartie participated fully after missing practice Wednesday.
Inside linebacker David Harris (toe) participated fully after being limited Wednesday.
Center Nick Mangold (high ankle sprain) didn't practice again and Colin Baxter is preparing to start in his place.
Wide receiver Plaxico Burress (hamstring) was limited after participating fully Wednesday.
Rookie defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (shoulder) was limited.
Wide receiver Santonio Holmes (shoulder) and defensive lineman Mike DeVito (shoulder) participated fully.
Wide receiver Logan Payne (wrist) has been ruled out.
SMITH MAKING PROGRESS: Smith isn't limping noticeably and has started doing light running on a treadmill as he continues to recover from a high left ankle sprain.
"I don't run with my full body weight," Smith said. "I just do a little bit. The mobility is still not there. I'm about to hit the treadmill right now."
The first-round draft pick is out again for this week and is hoping to return for the Ravens' game against the Houston Texans following the bye week.
"Hopefully, I'll be back by then," Smith said.
Smith is making progress, though.
"It's still bothering me a little bit," Smith said. "I've got to push through it."
FUNERAL SET FOR BROWN: A funeral and wake for the late Ravens offensive tackle Orlando "Zeus" Brown has been set for Oct. 7 at Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton.
The 6-foot-7, 370-pound former NFL player will be laid to rest in South Carolina.
Brown died at age 40, and was found dead of unknown causes at his Baltimore apartment.
He is survived by three sons.
BRIGANCE'S BIRTHDAY: Ravens director of player development O.J. Brigance celebrated his 42nd birthday Thursday at the team's training complex.
Brigance is dealing with Lou Gehrig's Disease.
He delivered a taped message thanking the players, coaches and staff in the team cafeteria where he was presented with a birthday cake.
"It's awesome to see ‘Juice' every day," linebacker Jarret Johnson said. "It's just amazing seeing him, he's always happy."
CANTWELL CUT: The Ravens released former Carolina Panthers quarterback Hunter Cantwell from the practice squad.
They signed undrafted rookie wide receiver Rodney Bradley (Hawaii) to replace him.
COLOR SCHEME: The Ravens are going to wear black pants and black jerseys Sunday night.
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