Ravens' secondary handles Falcons with ease

BALTIMORE -- The Baltimore Ravens' scaled-down secondary carried on without the presence of Pro Bowl cornerback Chris McAlister, adjusting with revamped starter, nickel and dime packages.<br><br>

In the Ravens' 24-0 preseason victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday at M&T Bank Stadium, cornerbacks Ray Walls and Fred Weary intercepted passes while McAlister remained absent due to a contract dispute and Gary Baxter was limited as he continues to recover from hernia surgery. Corey Fuller and Walls started at cornerback.

The Ravens limited Falcons quarterbacks Michael Vick, Matt Schaub and Ty Detmer to 111 yards passing, a long gain of 16 yards and a cumulative rating of 30.6. Atlanta averaged only 2.7 yards per pass attempt while completing just 13-of-25 passes with Schaub receiving the majority of the snaps.

"I think we all fit into our little niches," said Weary, a former Falcon who has bounced around the NFL in recent years and returned a dropped Schaub pass 49 yards for a touchdown. "They told me to play left corner and just do your thing. When Chris and everybody gets back, we'll probably be able to move Gary to a safety spot and bring in an extra corner for the nickel. I think we have a lot of guys who love to play the game."

Pro Bowl strong safety Ed Reed played nickel back with strong safety Chad Williams occupying his spot when defensive coordinator Mike Nolan used five defensive backs. Linebacker Bart Scott took Williams' place at dime back. Rashad Holman was utilized heavily, too.

"I think everything went pretty well," said Walls, who deflected a pass and had two tackles. "Everybody filled in and made the plays. We had to move a lot of guys around, but I think we handled it fine."

PROGRESSION: Second-year quarterback Kyle Boller wasn't exactly pleased with his performance in his first game back since injuring his quadriceps last November.

He completed 5-of-9 passes for 56 yards, a touchdown, no interceptions and a 111.3 rating, much better than last year's 62.4 mark that was the second-lowest in the NFL.

Boller also bounced a 10-yard out pass to rookie receiver Devard Darling and underthrew Randy Hymes, resulting in a deflection for cornerback DeAngelo Hall. Boller eventually led a 13-play, 95-yard drive that he capped with a touchdown pass.

"I'm getting there," Boller said. "I"m trying my best right now to concentrate more and understand the offense."

FUMBLE: Embattled return specialist Lamont Brightful hindered his cause when he fumbled the football on a punt return following a helmet-first hit by linebacker Matt Stewart.

Brightful is locked in a competition with seventh-round draft pick Derek Abney. Brightful returned two punts for seven yards. Abney returned two punts for 15 yards and a kickoff for 17 yards.

"Holding onto the ball is a big part of the game," Brightful said. "It surprised me to lose it as I was going down. You never want to let that happen and I'll concentrate even more to make sure it doesn't happen again."

COMPETITION: Daniel Wilcox is asserting himself in the battle for the third tight end spot that's open because of the injury status of Trent Smith (leg).

Wilcox caught a pair of touchdowns against the Falcons, following up on his four receptions for 57 yards and a touchdown in last week's scrimmage.

Meanwhile, rookie Brett Pierce caught three passes for 30 yards.

"I still had that one drop that slipped through my hands," said Wilcox, a former Tampa Bay Buccaneer and NFL Europe player. "I would rather have had three catches and two touchdowns. This is going on year four for me, and I've always been that border guy. The NFL is all about competition."

TRAINING ROOM: The Ravens reported a few injuries, including Boller (right elbow contusion), wide receiver Todd Devoe (finger sprain) and long snapper Joe Maese (left knee/ankle strain). Travis Taylor didn't start due to a nagging groin injury, but indicated he will return to practice today.

QUICK HIT: Massive nose guard Maake Kemoeatu collected two sacks as he continues his bid for playing time in the defensive line rotation.

"How secure do I feel?" Kemoeatu said. "Not very secure. Nobody's job is secure in this program."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.
 


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