Baltimore Ravens rookie safety Terrence Brooks talks about making strides in knowing the defense. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)

Ravens rookie free safety Terrence Brooks chased Robert Griffin III toward the right sideline on the Washington Redskins' first drive in the first quarter.

Brooks accelerated as he pursued Griffin and fought through a stiff-arm attempt to shove the quarterback out of bounds for a sack and a loss of 4 yards.

"RGIII tried to outrun me, he tried to stiff-arm me, and I take a lot of pride on playing fast and not letting anyone do that to me," Brooks said. "I wasn't even paying attention to who it was. I know what type of player he is, but you can't get caught up in names like that. It felt great to get a sack like that."

It wasn't the last time that the Ravens' pass rush would harass Griffin during the team's 23-17 victory at M&T Bank Stadium.

In the second quarter, rookie defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan sacked Griffin for a loss of 5 yards by forcing him to run out of bounds to avoid being hit. In the Redskins' next series, outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil bull-rushed Pro Bowl offensive tackle Trent Williams to slam Griffin to the ground for a 6-yard loss.

Without needing to regularly use blitz packages to create pressure, the Ravens sacked Griffin three times and had seven quarterback hits overall.

"That's great, especially when you don't have to blitz against a mobile quarterback," defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said. "That's awesome. Hopefully, we can keep on improving and getting better and better as a unit."

It was an encouraging development for a Ravens defense that finished last season with just 40 sacks, including only eight in the final seven games, as the team finished 8-8 and failed to qualify for the playoffs.

This performance against the Redskins was reminiscent of how the Ravens' defense operated during the first half of last season, when they consistently applied pressure to quarterbacks.

"Sacks are one thing, we had a few of those," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "Quarterback hits are another thing, we had a bunch of those just like we had last week. So, that impacts their passing game tremendously."

During the final seven games, when the pass rush practically reached a standstill, Dumervil had only one sack. Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs had just one sack in the final eight games last season.

"I think we have some talented guys that can get to the quarterback," defensive end Chris Canty said. "It's just making sure we're all tied together and being able to rush the passer collectively. When you've got a fast quarterback, he presents some challenges. RGIII is a very elusive guy.

"We wanted to limit his opportunities and not let him escape the pocket. He can make plays with his arms and legs outside the pocket. We want to force quarterbacks like that to try to beat us from the pocket."

As it turned out, Griffin was unable to do so.

Griffin, the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner and 2012 first-round draft pick looked rushed and confused in going through his progressions, failing to adeptly read coverage schemes as the pocket collapsed around him. Griffin completed only five of his eight pass attempts for 20 yards and was intercepted once by rookie inside linebacker C.J. Mosley off a pass deflection by middle linebacker Daryl Smith.

"You have to be disciplined in your pass-rush lanes, especially with a mobile quarterback like RGIII," said Suggs, who had a quarterback hit and a tackle for a loss. "He's a counter-puncher, and you really have to be disciplined. I think we did a pretty good job of containing him and getting after him."

Dumervil attributed the aggressive, effective approach to defensive coordinator Dean Pees' strategies.

"Great calls by coach Pees," Dumervil said. "When you've got guys covering and pushing the pocket, we're pretty athletic upfront, so we're going to get after the quarterback. Whenever you go against a Pro Bowler, you want to put your best foot forward."

Against the Redskins, the Ravens received impressive performances from their younger defensive linemen. In addition to recording the sack, Jernigan had two quarterback hits, and he displayed quickness and anticipation to shoot through gaps in the Redskins' offensive line.

"I'd definitely say it's one of my better games," said Jernigan, a second-round draft pick from Florida State. "After going back and looking at the previous two games, I was looking at little things I could have done different as far as getting to the quarterback. I was doing great power moves, getting into the backfield. Finishing the play, that was definitely my emphasis this week."

Meanwhile, new starting nose tackle Brandon Williams had five tackles, two for losses, and a quarterback hit.

In the third quarter, Williams stuffed Redskins running back Silas Reed for a 2-yard loss to shut down a fourth-and-1 attempt. On the Ravens' ensuing possession, backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor connecting with Deonte Thompson for a 21-yard touchdown pass.

"I was just out there doing my job, getting great pressure in the backfield," Williams said. "That was just a matter of the whole team getting after it. .. [Pass rush] is very important. As long as you can get that quarterback moving out of the pocket and not feeling comfortable, he makes a lot of not-so-good decisions whether it's a fumble, a sack, or a pick."

Williams, 6 feet 1, 335 pounds, provides a stout presence and has bulk and strength working in his favor. His maximum bench press is 525 pounds. Like Williams, Jernigan is powerful. He's also difficult to block because of his athleticism as a mobile 6-foot-2, 300-pounder.

"It looked to me from where I was standing that they played really well," Harbaugh said. "They didn't run the ball very much inside, and we got good inside pressure even on the early play-action downs."

Through three preseason games, the Ravens already have six sacks and four interceptions. After this week's preseason finale against the New Orleans Saints, the Ravens will begin preparing for their regular-season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.

"I think we're happy with how we've played, but I know that we're not satisfied," Suggs said. "We're going to continue to work, improve where we need to and get ready for Cincinnati."

awilson@baltsun.com

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