Baltimore Ravens Team Notes

<p> The Ravens defense may not be better than their Super Bowl one, but it could rank among the best in the league this year. Unlike the 2000 defense, which had bulky tackles up front, this year's group relies more on speed and scheme. In their 3-4 look, the Ravens keep offenses off balance by blitzing linebackers Ray Lewis and Peter Boulware as well as safety Ed Reed.</p>

So far in preseason, the Ravens have stepped up to the level of their competition.

With Lewis in the middle, the Ravens have limited two Pro Bowl quarterbacks -- Buffalo's Drew Bledsoe and Atlanta's Michael Vick -- to 35 yards of total offense in seven series this preseason. The Ravens starting group has forced three-and-outs on all but two possessions and has limited Bledsoe and Vick to a combined 3-for-9 for 11 yards and an interception. Although they don't work in a 4-3 alignment like 2000, the Ravens' challenge is still the same. The defense must carry the weight as the offense continues to find a starting quarterback along with some consistency. "We are just coming together as a defense," Lewis said after the Ravens' 13-10 win over the Atlanta Falcons, "and it's looking pretty good."

The difference maker from last year's defense should come in the secondary. The addition of cornerback Corey Fuller provides the same veteran voice as Rod Woodson, the Pro Bowl safety who left two years ago. Fuller is expected to be the field leader in the defensive backfield, giving direction and a calming influence over cornerback Chris McAlister and safeties Ed Reed and Gary Baxter. "That's what separated us in 2000," said Lewis, referring to that season's record-setting defense. "You had Rod back there with a young Chris McAlister and a young Duane Starks. Now, you put Corey back there with a young Ed Reed, a young Gary Baxter and a much more mature Chris McAlister; you're looking at the same mode all over again."

CAMP CALENDAR: Camp ends on Aug. 19.

--The quarterback competition has yet to become heated after two preseason games.
With each receiving a quarter to work with the starters, Chris Redman was 4-for-7 for 42 yards while Kyle Boller was 4-for-10 for 33 yards and an interception. Redman is still considered the favorite to be the season-opening starter.
"Kyle did some things he should have known better, but he will learn," Ravens coach Brian Billick said.
--With injuries to outside linebackers Cornell Brown (hamstring) and Terrell Suggs (neck), Adalius Thomas has shifted from defensive end to fill the void in the Ravens' 3-4 scheme.
The fourth-year veteran is extremely athletic and is troublesome when rushing the passer. The difficulty is dropping back in coverage.
Making the unexpected move toward the end of training camp doesn't bother Thomas.
"I'm a football player," said Thomas, who stands 6 feet 2, 270 pounds. "I come out and play football regardless if it's defensive end, safety, linebacker or corner."
--It was not a good week for the inside linebackers as well.
Backup inside linebacker Bernardo Harris had a pin inserted in his left leg to help his fractured fibula heal. He was expected to be back by September but now will likely be out until November.
Starting inside linebacker Ed Hartwell had to miss one practice with an eye injury but still had some blurring.
"I just need to see a figure with a ball," Hartwell said, "and I'm going to seek and destroy."
--Punter Dave Zastudil kicked a ball for the first time since straining the hamstring on his kicking leg nine days ago. 
Working off to the side, he tapped a soccer ball 10 times and lightly punted a football 15 times. He probably will return for the preseason finale against the New York Giants on Aug. 28. 
"I was going about 30 percent," said Zastudil, a fourth-round pick in 2002. "I was concentrating on my technique because I don't want to fall into any bad habits. The last two days I've made significant progress. I'll be ready for the first regular-season game, but I am aiming to play in one preseason game." 
--The Ravens appear to be leaning toward using a roster spot for a kickoff specialist. 
Matt Stover did not have a chance to kick off for the second straight week, and J.R. Jenkins has been consistently booming kicks inside the 5-yard line. Jenkins, a second-year kicker, was the specialist for the first half of last season but was cut when his leg strength tailed off drastically.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I want to be the only player to play all 11 positions in one game." - Linebacker/defensive end Adalius Thomas after being moved to linebacker in training camp.

--Oft-injured nickel back Tom Knight strained his left hamstring in practice and may miss the last week of camp. The six-year veteran missed all of last season with a torn right hamstring.
Knight's uncertain status could prompt a move before the season opener.
"We'll address it as best we can with people in this camp or out," coach Brian Billick said.
The first cuts of camp came when the Ravens waived two reserves, quarterback Grant Noel and kicker Dan Nystrom. The team also reached an injury settlement with safety Antwoine Sanders, a seventh-round pick out of Utah, and waived him. Sanders, who had a hamstring injury, had trouble picking up the defense.

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Chris Redman vs. Kyle Boller for starting QB -- Billick said he might not announce his starter until the season opener, but most coaches have a feel for who will start after the third preseason game. Redman has looked solid yet not spectacular. Boller has been exciting as well as erratic.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Orlando Brown vs. Ethan Brooks for starting RT (Brown missed his second preseason game with a knee injury while Brooks has been inconsistent); Ron Johnson vs. Randy Hymes for fourth WR (Johnson has solidified himself for this spot with strong play at receiver and special teams but Hymes could make this battle interesting with more big plays); Maake Kemoeatu vs. Aubrayo Franklin for backup NT (Kemoeatu is more of a run stuffer while Franklin is more of an upfield player).

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: NT Kelly Gregg -- The undersized starter had his way with the Falcons offensive line, making five tackles and knocking down a pass in one half of work. A former wrestler, Gregg makes plays by playing low and using leverage.

ROOKIE REPORT: OLB Terrell Suggs (first round) was sidelined for the second preseason game with a neck injury. It's been a tough camp for Suggs, who reported a week late as a holdout. ... QB Kyle Boller (first round) continues the up-and-down performance that is expected from a rookie. He will receive more work with the starters. ... RB Musa Smith (third round) sat out his second straight game with a knee injury. ... P Derrick Frost (undrafted) averaged 44.8 yards per punt against the Falcons and placed five of his six kicks inside the 20-yard line. He is getting a chance to play with Dave Zastudil nursing a hamstring injury.

INJURY REPORT (as of 8/17): Receiver Javin Hunter (Achilles' tendon) and tight end Trent Smith (leg) are out for the season. Center Mike Flynn (knee) and punter Dave Zastudil (hamstring) are sidelined for at least another week. Linebacker Bernardo Harris (leg) is expected to be out until November. Receiver Frank Sanders (toes), offensive tackle Orlando Brown (knee), linebackers Cornell Brown (hamstring) and Terrell Suggs (neck), cornerback Tom Knight (hamstring), fullback Harold Morrow (knee), running back Musa Smith (knee), return specialist Lamont Brightful (knee) and safety Ray Perryman (shoulder) are all listed as day to day.

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