www.baltimoresun.com/sports/ravens/ravens-insider/bal-notebook-ravens-defensive-line-called-a-work-in-progress-20121023,0,516473.story

baltimoresun.com

Notebook: Ravens' defensive line called a 'work in progress'

Except for Ngata, defensive line having a rough season

By Aaron Wilson

The Baltimore Sun

7:31 AM EDT, October 23, 2012

Advertisement

The Ravens' defensive line has traditionally owned a reputation for being stout against the run and harassing quarterbacks.

With the exception of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, though, that hasn't been the case this season.

The Ravens have gotten shoved around up front, pushed back into the linebackers, taken poor pursuit angles and been unable to escape blocks.

It's reached the point where the Ravens are beginning to work in younger defensive linemen as Bryan Hall and DeAngelo Tyson made their season debuts Sunday when the Ravens were routed, 43-13, at Reliant Stadium.

"A work in progress; we’re not where we’ve been in the past obviously," coach John Harbaugh said. "We’ve been a dominant run front. We’ve been able to play the run with seven in the box and pretty much dominate the run. We’re not there right now."

The Texans piled up 181 rushing yards as star running back Arian Foster rumbled for 98 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries against the NFL's 26th-ranked defense.

Foster reversed field for an 8-yard run, starting out to his right and running away from Ngata and outside linebacker Paul Kruger and dashing to his left to pick up the first down.

"It's about playing better as a defense, we're not doing our job right now," nose guard Terrence Cody said. "We wanted to build a wall. We were doing it, but not wrapping up and playing the cutback and they squirted out a few times."

Harbaugh was complimentary of Tyson and Hall, saying their play merited future opportunities.

The Ravens are allowing 400 yards of total offense per game.

Harbaugh indicated that while change could be coming to the defense, it won't be drastic moves like altering the primary 3-4 scheme or any massive lineup shifts.

"We’ve got our structure, but what we have to do is we have to adjust it," Harbaugh said. "We have to realign some of our rules, as far as gap control against the run or how we play coverages and things like that. Personnel-wise, there’s not a whole lot you can do, really.

"I like our players. Our players are most definitely good enough to get the job done, and we’ll just continue to improve there. Does that mean young guys? We’re going to keep developing the young guys, and as those guys emerge, sure, they are going to get an opportunity.”

Harbaugh says Ravens are following injury reporting rules

Harbaugh defended the team not listing free safety Ed Reed on the injury report.

The league launched a formal inquiry into the Ravens not having Reed on their official injury report after he complained last week of a torn labrum in his shoulder.

The NFL is reviewing the Ravens' practice and game video.

The Buffalo Bills and the Washington Redskins were fined $20,000 apiece last week for not listing defensive end Mario Williams on the injury report and for not being forthcoming about quarterback Robert Griffin III's status, respectively.

"What they'll find is that [Reed] practiced 100 percent all of the time and played in all of the games," Harbaugh said. "He hasn't missed any game time because of injuries. Our understanding of the rule has been that if they don't miss any time because of injury they don't have to be on the injury report.

"So, there's some nuances there. I'm very confident that we understand that rule as well as anyone in the league. Whatever they tell us to do, we'll do. We're trying to follow the rules."

Life without Lewis

During the Ravens' first game since middle linebacker Ray Lewis tore his right triceps and underwent surgery, the Texans stampeded for 420 yards and 27 first downs.

Not having Lewis' familiar emotional presence in the middle of the Ravens' defense felt odd to his teammates.

"It's strange," inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe said. "You expect Ray Lewis to be around. He's always been around. It's weird. We got to step up. We can't do this again."

The Texans converted 8 of 15 third downs and averaged 5.5 yards per offensive play. And they built a time of possession edge of 38:16 to 21:44.

"You always miss Ray," Harbaugh said. "He’s a one-of-a-kind player, he is a one-of-a-kind leader. He is just a special person. So, yeah, we miss him. We can still play great defense with the guys that we have.

"So, how much do you miss him? It’s not really worth putting a weight on. It’s not something that we really have a choice in the matter on.”

Harbaugh acknowledged communication needs to improve defensively.

"They don’t communicate the same way Ray does, sure," Harbaugh said. "That’s something that we have to work on. That's a big deal."

Ellerbe recorded a game-high 12 tackles as he started at weakside inside linebacker with Jameel McClain taking over Lewis' vacated inside linebacker spot.

McClain had a quieter game with just four tackles.

"I thought they were pretty solid," Harbaugh said. "There were times where we overran some gaps. We got a little too anxious and ran by Arian Foster, and he cut back on us a couple of times. That’s probably the biggest issue we had. They can slow down a little bit, stay behind some blocks a little bit better, and we probably would have been better off."

Smith caught flat-footed

Cornerback Jimmy Smith was susceptible to double-moves, and wide receiver Kevin Walter exploited that shortcoming in his game with four receptions for 74 yards and one touchdown.

"They double-moved me quite a few times," Smith said. "Anytime they got separation, it was a double-move."

Smith finished with four tackles, but deflected no passes.

"Jimmy played well, except for the double moves," said Harbaugh, who praised nickel back Corey Graham. "He did a nice job, but you can’t get beat on double moves; he knows that. That’s going to be his issue going forward. You have to try to find a way to cover those stop routes but still be on top of the deep routes."

Kindle to practice squad

The Ravens have added former second-round outside linebacker Sergio Kindle to the practice squad.

The former All-Big 12 selection went unclaimed off waivers Monday after being released Saturday when the Ravens activated Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs from the reserve-non-football injury list.

"I think he's very determined to be a good football player in this league," Harbaugh said. "We still think he has a chance. We really think there's a possibility he could grow into a player. We've seen some glimpses in practice."

End zone

Reed (rib contusion), offensive tackle Kelechi Osemele (sprained right ankle) and Ngata (sprained right medial collateral ligament) were able to participate in Monday's walkthrough practice. Offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie aggravated a minor hip flexor injury. "It seemed like everybody came out of it well," Harbaugh said. "We don't have anything serious. We don't have any major injuries coming out of it. We were very fortunate with injuries." ...  Strong safety Bernard Pollard was visibly upset on the sideline Sunday, but declined interview requests afterward. "I've got nothing good to say," Pollard said. Harbaugh didn't shed light on what angered Pollard during his weekly press conference. "No, there's nothing that came to my attention about that," Harbaugh said. He's a fiery guy. He's a competitor."

awilson@baltsun.com