Ravens moving Suggs, Johnson around

WESTMINSTER -- In an effort to get their top remaining athletes on the football field and maintain an unpredictable defense, the Baltimore Ravens are shuffling their lineup cards. Following Adalius Thomas' hyperextended knee, the Ravens are likely to start versatile defensive end Jarret Johnson at Thomas' strongside linebacker spot Saturday against the Atlanta Falcons and use him and Pro Bowl pass rusher Terrell Suggs as interchangeable parts.

Both players will see significant action at strongside [SAM] linebacker and defensive end [rush linebacker], according to linebackers coach Jeff FitzGerald who stressed that Suggs will stand up quite a bit while Thomas is out.

"The thought is we want to Terrell to get some reps standing up, and this has afforded us a nice, convenient time to get him some work at SAM," FitzGerald said. "We're getting ourselves covered in case we have some tragedy at that position. We want to work to get the best people on the field. We'll use both Terrell and Jarret at SAM."

In Johnson, the Ravens have a blue-collar worker with a reputation for sound technique and awareness. Howver, he will be tested in the open field and in pass coverage.

At 6-foot-3, 285 pounds, Johnson is best suited for run support and rushing the passer. Last season, the former fourth-round draft pick from Alabama recorded 30 tackles, a fumble recovery and returned an interception for a touchdown in the season finale against the Miami Dolphins.

Johnson's intelligence and all-out effort are his major strengths.

"Jarret's a good, smart football player," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "He gives us a real physical presence at SAM. Obviously, dropping isn't going to be his particular forte quite yet, but he has presence against the run, rushing off the edge and he's certainly capable mentally of doing the job."

Like Suggs and Thomas, Johnson represents a new breed of end/linebacker. He's big enough to work with his hand in the dirt in a three-point stance and mobile enough to stand up and move his feet forward or in reverse.

"It's fun and it should be a good experience," said Johnson, who began learning how to play linebacker last season in practice. "I'm a little confused about a few things, but I'm catching on fast. It's still football.

"The more you can do, the more you can stick around. Learning another position should give me more opportunities later on in my career. I'm excited about it, but it's a lot to pick up."

The Ravens want to be as creative and flexible as possible. Especially since they are implementing the high-risk, aggressive 46 defense.

Against the Falcons, second-year rush end Rod Green will also see increased opportunities.

The athletic, 6-2, 250-pounder will operate as the Ravens' situational pass rusher in the nickel package, a role initially reserved for rookie Dan Cody, who may miss the entire season with a knee injury.

"Rod is pretty much exclusive to rush linebacker right now," FitzGerald said.

At Central Missouri, a Division II program, Green registered 13 sacks in two seasons and was named to several All-American teams. He was limited to one tackle in nine games last season, but now his role is expanding into the cleanup hitter that the Ravens send after the quarterback in obvious passing situations.

Saturday night at the Georgia Dome, Green could be chasing electrifying Falcons quarterback Michael Vick.

"I want to show them great effort and show everybody what I can do, how I can get up the field and put a lot of heat on the quarterback," Green said. "I'm just straight-up rushing. If Michael Vick is in the game, I'm going to chase him with everything I've got.

"He's going to do his thing, and I'm going to get after him and do my thing."

When asked what he expected from Green on Saturday, Billick replied: "Taking the next step and showing that he can solidify himself with that presence off the edge. He's certainly capable of doing it in a live situation against a very good team. It's a great opportunity to show how far he's come."

FitzGerald added that inside linebacker Bart Scott will also play some outside linebacker in three-linebacker sets.

"There will be a lot of ‘backers on the field Saturday and Bart gives us more flexibility," FitzGerald said. "We've got some good players. It's going to be good to get them all on the field and allow us to get some really good evaluations."

In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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