Ravens' defense has been stingy against tight ends
By By Edward Lee
Jan 14, 2012 at 6:00 AM
History suggests that the Houston Texans duo of Owen Daniels and Joel Dreessen may not fare very well against the Ravens in Sunday's AFC divisional contest.
That's because the defense has been one of the stingiest units against tight ends in the regular season.
The Ravens have surrendered the second-fewest yards in the NFL to tight ends (665), the second-fewest touchdowns (three) and the sixth-fewest receptions (62). No tight end has gained more than 73 yards against the defense this season.
"We just focus on the details," inside linebacker Jameel McClain said. "The coaches have told us to focus on the details, and we're fortunate enough to go against so many good tight ends that it makes us step up our games to another level."
The difficulty for the linebackers and safeties is discerning when an opposing offense is running a passing play. Outside linebacker Jarret Johnson must recognize when it's time to rush into the backfield to blow up a run and when it's time to drop back into coverage.
"It's tough because when you're setting the edge, you've got to be physical and get upfield," he said. "But if you try to get too aggressive and going upfield, those guys will blow past you. So you've got to do a good job of going through your run-pass keys, using your indicators to tell whether it's going to be a run or a pass so that you can use that to your advantage."
Daniels led Houston in both catches (54) and receiving yards (677) in the regular season, but he injured his right hand in the team's 31-10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals Saturday night. Dreessen caught 28 passes for 353 yards, but he led the offense in touchdown receptions (six).
Both tight ends also have the added benefit of playing with five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Andre Johnson, who will draw some attention. Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said the Ravens will have to account for those players and their teammates.
"Like everybody else, they're going to say, 'OK, they have to take care of Andre, so that opens the door for guys like Daniels and everybody else to perform,'" Pagano said. "So we've got to do a great job on all those guys."