OWINGS MILLS - Thursday's game against the Carolina Panthers provided a look at the type of defense the Ravens believe they can be this season.
They were strong against the run, as they have been for the most part this summer aside from the second preseason game. They were solid against the pass. And they had Panthers quarterback Cam Newton under consistent pressure when he dropped back to pass.
Baltimore's defense might have struggled some in that second preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons, but its performance against Carolina was another indication that this new-look unit that has flashed so much potential throughout the summer has a chance to be dominant come the regular season.
"The more and more we play together in game situations the better we'll be at communicating," Ravens safety Michael Huff said. "And we're just trying to play together with different teammates and see what we can do in different defensive schemes and situations. But I think as we continue to play more together, we're just going to keep getting better and better as a group."
In five drives and two-plus quarters of work against the Ravens' first-team defense Thursday, a Carolina offense with talented players such as quarterback Cam Newton, running back DeAngelo Williams and wide receiver Steve Smith picked up just five first downs and averaged just 2.8 yards per play.
Only one of the five drives advanced into Baltimore territory - one that ended with a 54-yard field goal near the end of the first half. Those were the only points Carolina's offense produced with the Ravens' first-team defense in the game.
"I thought they played well," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said of the defense. "I thought we stopped the run. That was a goal, definitely a goal going in. We got good pressure on the quarterback throughout the game, got a lot of hits I believe ... and I thought our corners played well."
Newton completed just seven of his 14 pass attempts for a modest 70 yards against Baltimore's first-team defense. The Ravens sacked him twice and had him under constant pressure from, in particular, outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, a pass rushing combination that Baltimore has such high expectations for this season.
Newton did have a 9-yard run, but the Panthers' running backs rushed for just 10 yards on seven carries with the Ravens' first-team defense in the game.
Williams, a former Pro Bowler, had just two yards on four carries, and he was stopped for no gain on a third-and-1 from the 50-yard line early in the first quarter.
Six of the seven carries by a Panthers running back against Baltimore's first-team defense went for a gain of two yards or less.
"We definitely showed our personality against the run and the pass," Ravens defensive lineman Arthur Jones said.
Middle linebacker Daryl Smith, as he has been throughout the summer, was a primary catalyst.
Baltimore players and coaches have talked enthusiastically about Smith since the beginning of training camp, and Smith continued to play well Thursday. He had three tackles and a sack. He has 14 tackles, a sack and three pass deflections in around four quarters of action this preseason.
Smith said after the game that the defense still is in the process of jelling, but Thursday provided another glimpse of the type of dominant defense that the Ravens feel like they can be this season.
"With these games we try to get in there and communicate more," Smith said, later adding, " Each game, we're getting a little more comfortable with each other, and we're definitely jelling out there."