The Ravens defense has communication issues to work out, but Thursday was a nice start. All of the Ravens' offseason losses on the defensive side of the ball have been well-documented and I mentioned some of them in the previous item, so we probably don't need to go into them at this point. But the Ravens had six new starters on defense Thursday night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, including three linebackers and a pair of safeties. Considering all that, that revamped group fared pretty well against a first-team Buccaneers offense that has the potential to be a top-10 offense this season. The Ravens allowed the Buccaneers to go on two long field-goal drives while they had many of their starters on the field, but they held running back Doug Martin to zero yards on two carries and his backup, Brian Leonard, had 23 yards and a touchdown on six carries. Tampa's top two wideouts, Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams, combined for one catch for four yards. Starting quarterback Josh Freeman had just 34 yards on seven attempts. And Tampa Bay's first-team offense went 0-for-2 in two red-zone trips. There were some costly penalties -- like Chykie Brown doing his best Frank Walker impersonation with pass interference penalties on back-to-back pass plays -- and the Ravens allowed some conversions on third-and-short, but the defense's biggest issue was a couple of lapses in communication, something coach John Harbaugh alluded to in his halftime interview on television. The most obvious one, the one that you and I were easily able to identify from our sofas, came on Tampa Bay's third drive when rookie quarterback Mike Glennon completed a 61-yard pass to tight end Tom Crabtree from out of his own end zone. Safety Michael Huff had crept up close to the line of scrimmage and got caught in no man's land. Cornerback Corey Graham had his eyes in the backfield and didn't see Crabtree sneak behind him -- maybe because he wasn't his man. It appeared that Crabtree was assigned to inside linebacker Josh Bynes, but he failed to run with the tight end, allowing him to get behind the defense. Glennon lofted a pass to Crabtree, who was wide open. He ran the ball the whole way to the Ravens' 33-yard line before Graham caught him from behind. We have seen the Ravens defense lose track of the tight end on a couple of big plays during training camp. Communication issues are to be expected with all these new players getting integrated into the Ravens defense. While Ray Lewis and Ed Reed were no longer playing at a high level, they were as savvy as they came and made sure that everyone was where they were supposed to be before the snap and that they knew where they were headed after it. It is going to take some time for everyone on the Ravens defense to get their assignments down and get on the same page. The good news is that learning experiences like the Crabtree play won't hurt for another few weeks, when the games actually count in the standings.
Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun