Ravens primed for tough matchup with Jackson

OWINGS MILLS -- All-Pro tight end Antonio Gates isn't the only formidable weapon in the San Diego Chargers' arsenal. The Baltimore Ravens also have to account for imposing Chargers wide receiver Vincent Jackson on Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium. Jackson represents a challenge with his uncommon blend of size at 6-foot-5, 230 pounds and 4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash.

"He's a big receiver who can run and he's always been a tough matchup for cornerbacks, especially the smaller corners," Ravens cornerback Fabian Washington said. "There's always things you can do to make those matchups favorable. They're going to do what they think they can do best, and we're going to do what we think we can do best."

Jackson caught five passes for 56 yards, including an acrobatic touchdown catch in the opening game against the Oakland Raiders.

For his career, he has registered 135 receptions for 2,289 yards and 17 touchdowns. Last season, he caught a career-high 59 passes for 1,098 yards and seven touchdowns.

And his size tends to create mismatch es outside. So, the Ravens will need to generate a pass rush to disrupt Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers' timing.

"It's going to come down to technique," defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. "Poor corners, people think it's them. You've got to pressure. They can only do that for so long. Our defensive line and our linebackers feel that same kind of responsibility."

The problem with defending someone as big and athletic as Jackson is he's virtually always open just by the simple fact of his ability to muscle and outleap smaller defensive backs for the football.

He's a bully out there.

"I've played against him quite a few times and Vince has a ton of talent," cornerback Domonique Foxworth said. "I have a lot of respect for him. He's definitely big and pretty fast for his size, but you can't have it all. He can't do everything. We have to use what we do better."

During a fourth quarter Kansas City Chiefs scoring drive against Baltimore last Sunday, the Chiefs drove 80 yards on six plays with every play coming through the air.

Plus, the Ravens had a breakdown in coverage against the Chiefs when Washington allowed a 50-yard catch to Mark Bradley where he was a step behind and missed on a swipe at the ball.

"That play was tough from start to finish and bad on my end," Washington said. "I knew what I did wrong as soon as the ball was snapped. I didn't get a hand on him. Then, I was stumbling the whole way. He made a good catch. I hate that it happened, but it happened."

INJURY UPDATE: Tight end L.J. Smith is optimistic that he might play Sunday after being sidelined since late August with a pulled left hamstring.

He's listed as questionable and is expected to be a game-time decision, and will see how warmups go before a determination is made on his status.

"I feel like I've made enough progress that I feel pretty good about my chances," Smith said Friday. "This was the most work I've had all week and it feels good. I'm right there. I had a good week."

Ravens coach John Harbaugh echoed that sentiment. He's of the opinion that Smith is closing in on being ready to play.

"I would say that L.J. improved dramatically, especially in the last two days," Harbaugh said. "He was full participation, as far as I could tell. I don't know exactly the number of reps he took. He's got a chance to be ready to go. It was good to see."

Harbaugh predicted that safety Tom Zbikowski will play Sunday after being sidelined this week with a concussion suffered against the Chiefs when he collided with a two-man blocking wedge.

However, Zbikowski is doubtful on the injury report after not practicing all week.

"Zibby is fighting through it," Harbaugh said. "You can clear up at any time. I think he'll be ready to play on Sunday. If he's not, we're not going to risk it. We're not going to take any chances. Although after a week, you'd think he'd be okay."

The Ravens listed linebackers Terrell Suggs (concussion, chest), Tavares Gooden (sprained right knee) and Jarret Johnson as probable as well as free safety Ed Reed (concussion). Johnson was added to the injury report as probable Friday, but participated fully in practice.

WHY NO BASKETT?: The Ravens were heavily involved in discussions with free agent wide receiver Hank Baskett before he signed with the Indianapolis Colts.

They made trade inquiries about him before he was placed on waivers by the Philadelphia Eagles. Then, they were in talks with Baskett the night prior to him signing with the Colts.

The Colts had an edge as far as having more time to get the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder acclimated to their offense with a Monday night game against the Miami Dolphins.

"Hank Baskett was a consideration," Harbaugh said. "We talked to Hank the night before it happened. In my opinion, Hank would have come here. He pretty much made that clear. Hank and I have a great relationship."

Ultimately, the Ravens decided that it would have been tough to get Baskett up to speed in time for the Chargers game. Plus, the Colts really needed a receiver badly in light of Anthony Gonzalez's two-month knee injury.

"The Colts had an advantage of one more day," Harbaugh said. "Their advantage was their opportunity to get Hank up and playing this week was much better than ours was. He wouldn't have here to practice until Thursday or Friday.

"That was a little tougher for us to make a decision because when you bring somebody up, you've got to let somebody go. The most important thing for us this week was going to be the Chargers game. We had to keep that foremost. We tried to pull it off, but the fact that they play Monday night was the key."

QUICK HITS: Offensive guard Marshal Yanda said that Chris Chester will start again at right guard, and he will operate as a blocking tight end in short-yardage situations for the second week in a row. "Chris took 100 percent of the reps this week," Yanda said. "I haven't played any guard this week, so it should probably be about the same as last week." Will the Ravens ever throw him the ball in the red zone? "I ain't worried about them throwing me the ball," he said. "I would probably drop it." ... The Ravens have a hefty task in trying to block massive Chargers nose guard Jamal Williams, all206-foot-3, 348 pounds of him. "You watch him on film and he's a big load," Yanda said. "He plays with a low pad level and he tries to push the pocket back in pass protection. When we're on him, we've got to play with low pads and get underneath him. We'll be working tough on him because he's a good player." ... Former Ravens coach Brian Billick was at the team's training complex this week for one of his media appearances because of an equipment problem. "He normally does it from a remote, but it got set up here for whatever reason and he was around," Harbaugh said. "It's always fun talking with coach Billick. I get a chance to do that every now and then, even more so now with the show. He's a tremendous coach and a tremendous person. It was fun having him around. So, if his equipment breaks down again, we'll have him back again." ... The Ravens were encouraged about the week of practice they had before flying out to Southern California on Friday afternoon. "I think we had a really good week," Harbaugh said. "We pretty much always practice well. This week, it's a big trip for us. Our guys are excited to go against the Chargers and our practices reflected it." ... Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron downplayed the impact of his past ties to the Chargers where he first rose to NFL prominence as a play-caller. "It works both ways," he said. "We know them a little bit, and obviously they've watched and know me a little bit. I've got a lot of great memories there, but you've heard a bunch of guys say it in the past, it's still just another football game."

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