Beware hungry Ravens, young QB

The Baltimore Sun

New York Jets backup quarterback Kellen Clemens should hope Chad Pennington starts against the Ravens on Sunday at M&T; Bank Stadium. Beneath the poor play-calling, six turnovers and bad officiating in the Ravens' loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night, there was a great defensive effort.

It kind of got lost in the shuffle, but it was excellent. When you can frustrate a talented quarterback like Carson Palmer, and physically take receivers like Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh out of the game in the second half, you're on to something real special. This defense might be better than the Ravens' No. 1-ranked unit of a season ago.

Clemens has seen the film of the Ravens-Bengals game. Right about now, he has ordered tons of ice and healing water so that Pennington's injured ankle can miraculously heal by game time.

There is serious doubt that Pennington will be able to play, so that leaves Clemens, a second-year player out of Oregon, as the starter. The Ravens have a history of tormenting young quarterbacks, and you only have to look as far back as last season.

They held Tampa Bay's Chris Simms to 133 yards passing, and picked off three passes. Oakland's Andrew Walter was sacked five times and intercepted three times. The Ravens contained San Diego's Philip Rivers, and beat up on Cleveland's Charlie Frye in the first of two meetings.

So, it's not going to be much different Sunday, especially with the Jets struggling on the left side of their offensive line.

Did anyone say pressure? Did anyone say multiple fronts? Did someone say help me, please?

"Rex Ryan doesn't need much prodding to want to bring pressure," said Ravens coach Brian Billick about his defensive coordinator. "He gets up and is ready to blitz. I'll leave it to Rex to decide what is the best way to approach it."

This would be Clemens' first start if he plays. Of course, Ryan will try to make him uncomfortable. Ryan is going to give Clemens more looks than a chameleon because deception is also a major part of the Ravens' scheme.

The Ravens have to force Clemens to make quick decisions because the kid can throw. Clemens threw for 7,555 yards and completed 61 percent of his passes in four years at Oregon.

He impressed Billick enough that he brought Clemens in at the scouting combine for an interview.

"He has a very strong arm and the Jets have great speed, so that is certainly something that you are going to have to account for," Billick said. "That combination of what they may do can be lethal if you are not on top of it."

But Clemens hasn't seen anything like the Ravens. Against the Bengals, the Ravens gave up 186 yards of total offense in the first half, and only 50 in the second. There are few coordinators who make better adjustments than Ryan.

Overall, there can be an increase in production from a year ago. Last season, cornerback Samari Rolle got picked on often. He never came up to make tackles. Against Cincinnati, he had five tackles, two in strong run support.

Last year, safety Ed Reed was gambling and losing while fellow safety Dawan Landry was just a rookie having problems in pass coverage. Last week, they destroyed anything that came across the middle in the second half.

Outside linebacker Bart Scott has quickly picked up some of the duties vacated by former starter Adalius Thomas, and Suggs picked up where he left off a year ago when he was one of the best pass rushers in the league.

Veterans like defensive end Trevor Pryce and cornerback Chris McAlister appear to have maintained that high level of play from last season, and inside linebacker Ray Lewis has been running around like a young boy the past two weeks.

And part of the reason is that he isn't getting touched because tackles Haloti Ngata and Kelly Gregg are superb at stopping the run and keeping opposing offensive linemen off him.

By the end of the third quarter Monday night, the Bengals' high-powered offense, the one that had given the Ravens so much trouble through the years, wanted no part of this defense.

Clemens isn't going to want any, either. He completed five of 10 passes for 35 yards while filling in for Pennington during the second half of the Jets' 38-14 loss to the New England Patriots last week, and the Patriots aren't as strong as the Ravens defensively.

Both the Ravens and Jets come in at 0-1, and both are hungry. But the Ravens are at home, and are facing a young quarterback.

"We've got a good record against most quarterbacks," Scott said. "We're going to go out there, do what we do, give our different looks, make it challenging for them, and go out there and play Ravens attacking-style football."

Lewis said: "I don't know one person in this organization, as well as our city, that's thought about 0-2. The bottom line is the Jets pulled a bad draw. It's just the way it comes down."

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