Ravens respectful of Chiefs linebackers Derrick Johnson, Justin Houston
By By Aaron Wilson
The Baltimore Sun|
Oct 05, 2012 at 5:16 PM
Outside linebacker Tamba Hali is regarded as the headliner of the Kansas City Chiefs' defense.
However, he's far from the only Chiefs linebacker the Ravens have to concern themselves with Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Chiefs also feature left outside linebacker Justin Houston, who leads them with four sacks, four fumble recoveries and five tackles for losses.
And inside linebacker Derrick Johnson went to the Pro Bowl last season and leads the Chiefs with 32 tackles to go with one sack, two tackles for losses this year. In a 2009 game against Baltimore, he returned an interception 70 yards to set up a touchdown pass to Dwayne Bowe.
"You always have to know where he's at," Ravens running back Ray Rice said. "He's a Pro Bowl-type linebacker, and obviously, when he's playing at a high level, their defense plays at a high level."
The 6-foot-3, 242-pound former University of Texas standout recorded a career-high 132 tackles last season with two sacks and two interceptions.
"He's a good linebacker," Ravens All-Pro fullback Vonta Leach said. "He covers great. He's playing at the same Pro Bowl level he played at last year. He plays the run well, drops back in pass coverage and rushes the passer."
For Leach, the true measure of a linebacker is whether he's willing and able to take him on during a physical isolation play.
Of Johnson, Leach said: "He will do that."
A former University of Georgia player, Houston conducted a private workout for Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees heading into the NFL draft two years ago before being picked by Kansas City.
"They've got two guys," coach John Harbaugh said. "The Houston kid from Georgia is a really talented pass rusher, too. So, they've got two tremendous pass rushers right now. It seems like we see those guys every week and there are two more of them coming down the pike.
"They are just both fast, speed edge rushers. They are both explosive athletic guys. They're more explosive, athetic type rushers more than power rushers, but they have power. They are just good players."
Predominantly running a 3-4 scheme, the Chiefs have 15 quarterback pressures this season.
"They get after the pass, they are great pass rushers off the edge," Rice said. "We have to be alert where they are at all times."