If you saw the Ravens whip the Eagles, 29-3, in the preseason opener, you may have thought you saw someone wearing No. 95 on the Ravens' defense. Well, you were mistaken -- that was really No. 96.
"But wait," you say, "No. 96 was Adalius Thomas and he took a pile of Bob Kraft's money in free agency and ran off to New England."
And certainly you would be right on that score -- but the Ravens still need someone to approximate Thomas' Mr. Everything role in defensive coordinator Rex Ryan's complex scheme, and that task now falls to Jarret Johnson, who most assuredly wears No. 95 but now must imitate the old No. 96.
Last night, Johnson -- mostly lining up at outside linebacker -- played a little longer than the rest of the first-string defenders, taking snaps through the second period because, well, he needs the live game repetitions. He had two tackles and put in a steady night that included one hiccup in pass coverage on a 30-yard completion to tight end Brent Celek. Actually, Celek's gain would have been much shorter with a little better tackling behind Johnson.
Last year, Johnson's teammates referred to him as one of the defense's unsung heroes, doing the dirty work of taking on opposing blockers so his teammates could be the heroes. This year, though, he'll be the one who has to make the plays -- like the one he knows he just missed in coverage.
"I always feel more comfortable against the run, but I felt real good tonight against the pass," Johnson said. "Because (the Eagles) are such a passing team, you're not surprised. They're like 75 percent pass, so you come to expect it. I felt my zone coverage was good (but) I made a bad play on the ball on that one play. I got my hand on it and (Celek) just made a good catch. I knocked it down but right into his gut. But those are the things I need to work on."
Photo credit: Doug Kapustin/Baltimore Sun