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New-look Ravens defense anxious to get on the field and 'hit somebody' Thursday

FootballJoe FlaccoDaryl SmithGino GradkowskiArthur BrownBernard Pollard

The Ravens' overhauled defense makes its preseason debut Thursday night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, taking on a much different look from a year ago.

With Ray Lewis retired and Ed Reed, Dannell Ellerbe, Paul Kruger, Cary Williams and Bernard Pollard no longer on the roster, several newcomers will be playing for the Ravens in a game situation for the first time. That includes middle linebacker Daryl Smith, outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil, defensive lineman Chris Canty, free safety Michael Huff, rookie safety Matt Elam and inside linebacker Arthur Brown.

"We're ready to hit somebody," said Smith, a former Jacksonville Jaguars starter. "This is going to be huge. It will definitely be a good chance to work out any frustrations or anything else you got building up."

For Smith, it's been a smooth transition so far adjusting to defensive coordinator Dean Pees' 3-4 scheme.

"I got the gist," Smith said. "Now, it's picking up all the details. You can only get that through the experience of playing."

The revamped defense has dominated several practices at training camp, harassing quarterback Joe Flacco.

"I feel like they are pretty darn good," Flacco said Tuesday. "They have a lot of pass rushers, a lot of guys in the secondary that can run and cover."

In particular, Smith has drawn praise for his instinctive, aggressive style.

"Daryl Smith, he looks really good," Flacco said. "I don't really notice those guys too much, but he's seemed to impress me for some reason."

One of the Ravens' biggest defensive acquisitions has been Canty, a 6-foot-7, 317-pound player signed to a three-year, $8 million contract in March.

"It's starting to jell, but we haven't played in a football game yet," Canty said. "We need to go out and compete against another football team at game speed and game tempo and go through that process. That will be a great opportunity to kind of come together.

"You can try to simulate it in practice, but nothing takes the place of game experience, getting out there with the guys for the development of our football team. We're excited to go hit somebody else."

Evaluation time

One of the Ravens' top competitions for a starting job is being waged between centers Gino Gradkowski and A.Q. Shipley.

Gradkowski said he didn't know yet if he'll start Thursday night.

"It's a chance for us to get out there and show what we've been working on," he said. "They're obviously going to evaluate us and it's another opportunity for us to show what we can do."

End zone

With Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson sidelined, there will be increased playing time Matt Furstenburg, an undrafted rookie tight end from Maryland. "It's definitely been unfortunate for Dennis and Ed, but it's a great opportunity for other guys," Furstenburg said. "I want to prove myself out there and show what I can do not only here, but to other teams, too." ... Harbaugh reiterated that Dickson isn't expected to be out for an extended time as he recovers from a slightly torn hamstring. "Within a week or so, we'll re-evaluate that and see where we're at," Harbaugh said. "It's not going to be a long-term problem, but it's going to be something that's going to have to heal." Harbaugh said he doesn't think the injury will force Dickson to miss time in the regular season. ... Lacrosse legend Gary Gait, the Syracuse University women's lacrosse coach, attended Tuesday's practice and spoke with Harbaugh afterward.

awilson@baltsun.com
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FootballJoe FlaccoDaryl SmithGino GradkowskiArthur BrownBernard Pollard
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