Ravens' 46 defense makes a strong debut

WESTMINSTER -- In the debut of the aggressive 46 defense, the Baltimore Ravens generated four sacks and forced two fumbles. There were a few rough moments, though, during the Ravens' 16-3 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday at the Georgia Dome.

Especially an 18-yard catch-and-run from fullback Justin Griffith, a 32-yard pass interference penalty against cornerback Chris McAlister when Michael Jenkins got behind him and a coverage bust on a tight end down the middle for a touchdown in a fourth quarter where Baltimore was outscored 13-0.

Overall, first-year defensive coordinator Rex Ryan was encouraged about what he saw as he employed the 46 alignment an estimated 35 to 40 percent of the time.

"We got a lot of pressure with it," Ryan said. "We gave up one big run in the fourth quarter up the middle and that can't happen when you play that defense. We made a couple mistakes in coverage, but the 46 is going to be big part of what we do. We need to get a little sharper."

The Ravens limited the Falcons' offense to 247 yards on 63 plays, an average of 3.9 per snap.

Jarret Johnson started at strongside linebacker for Adalius Thomas, shifting over from defensive end after four days of practice. He committed only one mental mistake as he played the entire first half, according to Ryan. Pro Bowl pass rusher Terrell Suggs alternated with Johnson at strongside linebacker and rush linebacker.

"Double-J looked real good," Ryan said. "He's a smart kid. Terrell had no mental mistakes, which is terrific. The more we can do with having guys play more than one spot, that's really going to help us."

TRAINING ROOM: The return of tight end Todd Heap might be delayed until next week when he's likely to be activated from the physically unable to perform list. Heap, who underwent offseason surgeries on his ankle and shoulder, had been projected to begin practicing this week.

"We want to make sure he's feeling 100 percent," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "The ankle feels good and he's pushing it hard."

Billick indicated that nickel back Dale Carter (bruised tibia) is unlikely to return until next week, too. He also expressed optimism that the team can get 16 combined games between Deion Sanders and Carter.

"I'm very impressed," Billick said of Sanders, who stripped the football away from Falcons quarterback Michael Vick on a sack. "He's gotten into a nice rhythm."

Billick said the team is likely to wait another few weeks before making a determination on running back Musa Smith, who remains on the physically unable to perform list after breaking his leg last season.

Tight end Darnell Dinkins' shoulder contusion isn't serious, nor is fullback Ovie Mughelli's sore neck.

ROUGH NIGHT: Derek Anderson can't erase his first and last plays from Saturday, but the rookie quarterback would love to replicate some of what transpired between those ugly snaps.

The sixth-round pick from Oregon State fumbled away the center exchange on his initial NFL snap and threw an interception in the red zone with two minutes remaining. Besides those plays, Anderson's outing was uneventful. Offensive coordinator Jim Fassel indicated the fumble was center Brian Rimpf's fault. Rimpf normally plays guard.

Fassel said there was a blown protection on the interception, but Anderson shouldn't have forced the ball into coverage.

"I did some positive things, but I threw that pick down there and obviously that's frustrating," Anderson said. "Hopefully, I'll perform better and control the ball a little better. I always put a lot of pressure on myself and I want to take advantage of the opportunities I have like anyone would."

Anderson completed 4-of-7 passes for 36 yards with a 31.5 quarterback rating. He's pretty much assured of being the Ravens' third quarterback, but his repetitions will likely decrease as the team has to prepare starter Kyle Boller and backup Anthony Wright.

"Much like the team, seven outstanding plays bordered by typical rookie screw-ups," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "We've got to get rid of the beginning and ending and expand the middle part."

QUICK HITS: Rookie offensive lineman Adam Terry shuffled between the left and right sides, appearing much more comfortable at his natural left tackle spot. "I have a lot to improve on, but I got the jitters out and for the most part played pretty well," Terry said. "Playing right tackle is going to be a work in progress throughout the season as far as getting my footwork down." … Billick shed no light on the Ravens' ongoing dialogue with linebacker Peter Boulware, who reportedly might work out for the team as soon as today or Wednesday. "Nothing to add to what you already have," Billick said in a subdued tone. The team has been consistently vague about Boulware since acknowledging contacting his agent shortly after rookie Dan Cody's major knee injury.

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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