Ravens' defense focused on Jones

OWINGS MILLS -- Traditionally, the Baltimore Ravens follow a two-pronged defensive strategy. First on their checklist is shackling running backs, particularly respected ones like Chicago Bears standout Thomas Jones.

Intimidating rookie quarterback Kyle Orton on Sunday at Soldier Field is important to the Ravens' second-ranked defense, but it definitely ranks behind stopping Jones.

Jones ranks seventh in the NFL in rushing with 502 yards and six touchdowns and has three 100-yard games. The Ravens rank fourth against the run, allowing 90 yards per game.

"I'm more excited to try to slow down this Jones guy that's running pretty good," middle linebacker Ray Lewis said in a conference call with Chicago reporters. "Orton is a young kid. He has been exposed to a lot early, but the thing that we have to understand is he's not what makes their offense go.

"What makes their offense go is their running game. They've made up their mind that they want to run the football and play good defense. I have to stop their running back."

To Lewis, it's an identical approach to earlier this season when the New York Jets were down to third-string quarterback Brooks Bollinger. The All-Pro defender spent most of his energy preparing for Curtis Martin, the reigning NFL rushing champion.

"Why would I focus on who's the quarterback?" Lewis said. "And it's the same thing this week."
The Ravens haven't allowed a running back to eclipse the century mark this season. Lewis made the point that three of the last five running backs he's faced haven't made it through the entire game. That includes Lions running back Kevin Jones, who was replaced by Artose Pinner after being stymied on the goalline by Lewis and Co., Titans running back Chris Brown, who incurred a concussion on a hit from Adalius Thomas, and Martin, who suffered a thigh injury.

Jones, meanwhile, has three 100-yard games. His only other exposure to the Ravens came in 2000 as a rookie when he was limited to 39 yards in the Ravens' 13-7 win over the Arizona Cardinals.

Meanwhile, this will be Orton's first encounter with Baltimore.

Although the rookie from Purdue has only a 57.7 passer rating and has been sacked 12 times, he appears to be making progress. He had his first multi-touchdown game in last week's 28-3 win over the Minnesota Vikings, finding tight end Desmond Clark twice for scores.

"We definitely want to rattle a rookie quarterback," outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "I haven't seen Orton get rattled yet, but we want to hit him so he won't be comfortable in the pocket.

"We're going to find out on Sunday how tough he is. We want to get him out of his rhythm because sometimes he makes the rookie mistake."

Orton has thrown four touchdowns, but has been intercepted seven times. He has an interception percentage of 5.0, and is completing only 56.1 percent of his passes.

"He's a sharp kid," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "They're well-schemed. They're not going to expose him obviously.

"We'll do everything we can to make it a long day for him. He's a smart kid, but we'll be as multiple as we have to be to try to confuse him."

Even with safety Ed Reed (last year's NFL Defensive Player of the Year) out of the lineup with a high-ankle sprain, Orton doesn't sound inclined to challenge the Ravens' Pro Bowl-laden secondary.

"They're so deep there, and all the guys are so experienced," Orton told Chicago reporters. "I don't think I'll be picking on any of those guys. I'm just going to go through my progressions and throw to the open receiver instead of the open linebacker."

It's likely that the Ravens will use multiple schemes and blitz packages to try to befuddle Orton, a fourth-round draft pick installed after a major ankle injury to starter Rex Grossman. Those alignments are likely to include the rarely-used 46 defense that defensive coordinator Rex Ryan installed this spring. His father, Buddy Ryan, is the architect of the defense made famous by the Bears two decades ago.

"We're using it some, not just all the time," Suggs said. "This is a good time to run it against someone who hasn't been exposed to anything like this before."

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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