Ravens defense gets schooled by Vinny

School is in session, and the NFL education of this drastically reduced Baltimore Ravens football team continues. New York Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde acted as the wise professor for a depleted secondary with papier mache depth in carving up the Ravens for a 34-16 victory Thursday night at Ravens Stadium.

In dispelling some of the initial optimism about a revamped defense that lost seven starters from last season, Testaverde called on a few guest lecturers, too.

Running backs Curtis Martin and Lamont Jordan combined for 62 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries in exploiting the absence of outside linebacker Peter Boulware and end Michael McCrary.

Wide receivers Wayne Chebret and Laveranues Coles spun reserve cornerbacks Alvin Porter and Reggie Waddell around on several occasions.

Testaverde timed his arcing passes for 9 of 12 accuracy, 129 yards, a touchdown and a staggering quarterback rating of 137.2.

As Ravens coach Brian Billick put it, so many errors, so little time. These weren't the hapless Detroit Lions. The Jets are a legitimate contender in the AFC East.

"Vinny schooled our defense a little bit," Billick said. "At some point, we will pick up somebody down the middle. Hopefully, sometime between now and my 50th birthday. "I'm 48 so we have a little time."

The Jets' opening drive lasted just over two minutes with Testaverde completing all three of his attempts, capping the drive with a 31-yard touchdown pass to Coles. Porter was nowhere close to Coles when he caught the ball and couldn't corral Coles afterward as the speedy Florida State product scooted into the end zone for a 7-0 first-quarter lead.

"They made a couple of good plays," said Porter, playing for starter Gary Baxter who continues to nurse a sore hamstring. "It's not a step back. We know that the Jets are a great football team.

"It's just a learning process. It's how you respond to it afterward. Are you going to run and hide and duck your head, or are you going to step up to the challenge?"

For the moment, no one is questioning the youthful Ravens' willingness, only their lack of guile as they become accustomed to playing teams like the Jets that specialize in precision passing with offensive coordinator Paul Hackett's version of the West Coast offense.

The Ravens allowed 323 total yards, an average gain of 5.8 per play, 100 rushing yards, and a completion rate of 17-for-25 with one interception by undrafted rookie safety Will Demps.

The Jets completed most of their passes to the wideouts, hitting them nine times for completions. Tackling was inconsistent, too.

"The young pups hung in there," said All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis, who prevented a score with his end-zone collision with tight end Anthony Becht. "Again, we're missing some starters like last week and the communication with the young guys isn't real good yet."

Chebret caught four passes for 87 yards to produce an average of 21.8 yards per reception, including many of the spectacular diving variety.

McAlister is the lone returning starter to a Baltimore defensive backfield that lost cornerback Duane Starks and safeties Rod Woodson and Corey Harris in free agency. The Jets appeared to make it a practice of avoiding McAlister on Thursday, something that may become a familiar scenario this season.

The Jets gained 187 yards in the first half for a 13-3 lead at intermission.

 "We weren't as crisp as we should have been," McAlister said. "It's still preseason and we can improve. It's something we need to learn from."

Undrafted outside linebacker Bart Scott led the team with seven tackles, and inside linebacker Edgerton Hartwell picked up six stops and his third sack of the preseason.

However, the Ravens generated only that one sack after coming up with eight sacks and three turnovers against the Lions a week ago. Also, strong safety Anthony Mitchell got stiff-armed to the ground on one tackle attempt.

This performance may have partly been an adjustment to the Jets' talent quotient, or a slip backward.

"We have to win more one-on-one battles, whether making the tackle when we have the chance, re-routing a receiver or stuffing their offensive lines," defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said.

First-round pick Ed Reed played sparingly on defense, saying his first extended NFL action took him back to his Little League days. The safety believes this won't be the usual chain of events for the Ravens. He's more concerned about attitude than ability.

"You learn a lot about character at a time like this," Reed said. "There were a lot of guys who were giving up a lot of plays. Some guys put their heads down, but that's where the coaches come in. They watch stuff like that.

"I feel like we're going to get there. It's a matter of time."


Ravens Insider Top Stories