Not often have the Ravens, who reveled in wreaking havoc with their pass rush under former defensive coordinators like Rex Ryan and Chuck Pagano, gotten close enough to the quarterback to create chaos inside the pocket this season. Their current coordinator, Dean Pees, is still searching for some solutions to rectify that.
The numbers are alarming. The Ravens are tied for 26th in the league with 13 sacks, and a lack of consistent pressure on quarterbacks is probably the main reason why the Ravens defense is ranked 22nd against the past despite its depth and talent in the secondary. The Ravens have gotten to the quarterback on just 4.3 percent of their dropbacks, which is 25th in the NFL. They haven’t recorded more than two sacks in a game since they sacked Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton four times in the season opener. Dannell Ellerbe, an inside linebacker who was a part-time player until two games ago, leads the team with 3.5 sacks.
To be fair, they been hindered by injuries to three of their top pass rushers from a year ago. Linebacker Terrell Suggs, who led the Ravens with 14 sacks, is working his way back into form after missing the first six games of the season while he recovered from a torn Achilles tendon. Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata has been dealing with knee and shoulder issues. And defensive end Pernell McPhee sat out Sunday’s game with a thigh injury.
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Still, the Ravens continue to tinker with their defensive front while they look for solutions. At times, McPhee has moved inside to play tackle in passing situations. In the 25-15 victory over the Cleveland Browns, outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw, a second-round pick in April's NFL draft, put his hand on the ground some as a defensive end. Suggs swapped sides Sunday, moving over the right tackle to get away from Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas.
And while his blitzes might not be as aggressive and as chaotic as some of his predecessors, Pees wasn’t shy about sending extra guys after the quarterback early in the season. He has been blitzing less in recent weeks, instead counting on his defenders to cover well and tackle well. And since the guys up front haven't been beating their men 1-on-1, only 6.5 of their sacks have come from defensive linemen or outside linebackers.
Oh, and in case you still aren’t overly concerned with the lack of a pass rush, let me remind you who is left on the schedule.
Each of the seven quarterbacks they will face in the second half of the season -- remember, they have stare at Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger’s grisly mug twice in the next four games -- is ranked in the top half of the league’s starting quarterbacks in passer rating. Four of those quarterbacks -- Denver’s Peyton Manning, New York’s Eli Manning, Roethlisberger and Washington’s Robert Griffin III -- are currently ranked in the top 10.
Now would really be a great time for Pees and his Ravens defenders to recreate the chaos of seasons past.