Notebook: Ravens' sack production dipping

OWINGS MILLS -- One year removed from approaching the pinnacle of quarterback harassment, the Baltimore Ravens now rank in the bottom half of the league at rushing the passer. Last year's top-ranked defense has dipped to 20th in the NFL in sacks per pass play after ranking second overall with 60 total sacks last season behind the league-leading San Diego Chargers.

Through three games this year, the Ravens have amassed just six sacks. Nickel back Corey Ivy leads the team with a pair of sacks. Most surprisingly, Pro Bowl linebackers Terrell Suggs and Bart Scott have yet to register a sack.

"We're just not very good at rushing the passer, I guess," defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said Thursday with a heavy dose of sarcasm. "Hey, those things happen. Sacks happen in bunches.

"Of course, normally your opportunities are in the fourth quarter. That's generally when you get your sacks. Unfortunately, we haven't had sacks or takeaways. I think that's what's been part of our problem in the fourth quarter has been that we have to get off the field. Sacks and interceptions would be nice, but we expect that to change."

Over the past two games, Baltimore hasn't notched a fourth-quarter sack with seven combined quarterback pressures during 33 pass attempts.

The Ravens rank first in the NFL against the run, but 17th overall against the pass with an average of 239.7 passing yards allowed, five touchdown passes allowed and just two interceptions.

With defensive end Trevor Pryce, who led Baltimore with 13 sacks last season, out with a broken wrist, it has increased the amount of double-team blocking on Suggs who has 40 sacks in 51 career games.

Plus, the no-huddle offense has plagued the Ravens.

"They try and do that to slow our blitz package down and getting different people out there," Scott said. "That's how teams will try to attack us. Whenever you've been the No. 1 defense in the league, people want to stop it and see what other teams have done to be successful against you.

"If they can stop you from getting out of our elaborate blitz package and things like that, they think that if they go hurry-up and not allow us to come out with our sub package, our dime package and our nickel package, then we can't be effective. But it's just an adjustment we have to make."

One year after leading all NFL inside linebackers with 9 1/2 sacks, Scott has had expanded responsibilities in pass coverage since the departure of All-Pro linebacker Adalius Thomas. He's also no longer a secret in NFL circles after making the Pro Bowl.

"I haven't been doing as much blitzing, a little more covering and swiping and things like that," Scott said. "But who knows? It's a long season, so we'll see where it goes.

"It's what's best for the team. Right now, I'm hot. I've got a little bit of a bull's-eye on my chest. Why not take advantage?"

INJURY UPDATE: For the second day in a row, middle linebacker Ray Lewis (ankle) was limited in practice as were wide receivers Mark Clayton (calf) and Demetrius Williams (heel).

Linebacker Gary Stills (knee) was upgraded on the injury report, practicing fully.

Cornerback Samari Rolle, who has been ruled out for the second game in a row with an undisclosed illness, attended practice, but was dressed in street clothes. He seemed to be in high spirits, laughing and joking with teammates in the locker room afterward.

Meanwhile, Browns tight end Kellen Winslow missed practice again due to a partially dislocated shoulder. Scott scoffed at the suggestion that Winslow might not play.

"That's gaming, man, I don't want to hear that," Scott said. "He'll be up for it. I don't want to hear that one. Everybody's doubtful every week in the NFL."

HARD LUCK: Former Ravens cornerback Gary Baxter is vying to become the first player in league history to overcome torn patellar tendons in both knees after a severe blowout last season.

"The thing that impresses you the most is Gary's mindset and the fortitude that he's shown in preparing himself and working to be able to get out here on the football field," Browns coach Romeo Crennel said in a conference call with Baltimore reporters.

A former second-round pick who played four seasons for the Ravens, Baxter is listed as the Browns' second-team strong safety. He was limited in practice Thursday and it's unclear if he'll play Sunday against his old team.

OLD LOYALTIES, NEW EMPLOYER: Ravens rookie quarterback Troy Smith makes his return to his hometown this weekend, and it will spark old memories of rooting for the Browns. He has no divided loyalty, though, as his paychecks come from Ravens owner team Steve Bisciotti.

"Being a Browns fan growing up, wanting them to do well is pretty much second-nature," Smith said. "As you get older and you understand the game of football, it's not that I strayed away from being a Browns fan, but I represent something different now."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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