Rookie defensive tackle Haloti Ngata may have taken center stage Sunday after his 60-yard interception return helped the Ravens take a 17-point lead before halftime of an eventual 27-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
But another first-year defensive player was nearly as impressive: strong safety Dawan Landry.
Landry, the organization's fifth-round draft pick in April who bested veteran Gerome Sapp for the starting safety role, recorded three tackles Sunday and contributed to a secondary that limited Buccaneers quarterbacks Chris Simms and Bruce Gradkowski to just one completion of more than 20 yards.
Landry's work was enough to earn praise from coach Brian Billick during his weekly media briefing yesterday.
"Dawan Landry, in particular, did some very, very good things - beyond what you might expect from the rookie to do in that situation," Billick said. "He's playing with a great deal of fluidity."
Billick added that Landry is still learning, pointing out that Landry hesitated on jumping on a crossing route by wide receiver Michael Clayton that led to a 27-yard completion in the third quarter.
"That was really the only time I saw a little hesitation on his part," Billick said. "But again, he's playing above and beyond. For a first game, that was very impressive."
The week before the preseason finale against the Washington Redskins, Landry said he anticipated being a target for opposing quarterbacks. "Some teams may look at that as a way to exploit a young guy, but I just have to go out there and perform and play my game," he said in August.
What a rush
As impressed as Billick was with the offensive line's ability to blunt Tampa Bay's pass rush and provide quarterback Steve McNair with time to throw the ball, Billick was just as delighted with the line's run blocking, which accounted for 103 rushing yards.
"As modest as it sounds, 103 yards rushing is modest, but since they only gave up four of them [100-yard rushing games] last year, we're going to feel good about that," he said. "That set a temperament that we really wanted to set, and I think that had a big part in what happened yesterday."
But Billick cautioned that there was still room for improvement in preparation for Sunday's home opener against the Oakland Raiders.
"There's a lot to coach off of that tape," he said. "As good as the game was for us and across the board it was very, very good, there are a lot of mistakes to correct, which is good because it's a very good teaching environment right now because obviously they're bright-eyed and they feel good about themselves. But we've got to correct some of the things that could've cost us the game."
Feeling at home
Middle linebacker Ray Lewis will always think of Raymond James Stadium fondly.
His most memorable trip there earned him Most Valuable Player honors and a Super Bowl victory six seasons ago, and yesterday's game was the second time that the Lewis-led defense did not surrender a touchdown in the stadium.
"This stadium has been good to me," said the Lakeland, Fla., native. "I will never complain about my record in this stadium."
Almost had it
The league's stingiest defense could've had a fourth interception against Tampa Bay on Sunday if defensive end Jarret Johnson had held on to a pass from Gradkowski in the fourth quarter.
Johnson, who has just one interception in his fourth season with the Ravens, dropped back into coverage and correctly read a dump-off from Gradkowski to running back Michael Pittman. Johnson stepped in front of the pass but let it slip from his hands.
"I just got too excited," Johnson said ruefully. "He threw me a duck right in my chest, and my eyes got big when I saw that field."
Through his foundation, offensive coordinator Jim Fassel donated $60,000 to three 9/11 charities yesterday. The former New York Giants head coach split the money between America's Camp (a camp for children ages 6-16 who lost a parent or both parents in the terrorist attacks), Tuesday's Children (a family service organization founded by family and friends of the victims) and the Tribute Center at the World Trade Center site.
The status of several players, including defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin (thigh) and running back P.J. Daniels (thigh), won't be determined until tomorrow as Billick said the team would wait until Wednesday for trainer Bill Tessendorf's diagnosis. ... The defense is either ranked first or tied for first in the league in 10 categories, including total yards allowed (142), yards per play (2.8) and first downs per game (eight). email@example.com
Sun reporter Jamison Hensley contributed to this article.