Ravens looking to jump-start pass rush after failing to get to quarterback vs. Raiders

The Ravens jumped to the top of the NFL rankings in total defense, but one area that haunted them in Sunday's 28-27 loss to the Oakland Raiders was their inability to pressure quarterback Derek Carr.

Carr was not sacked or hit once in the game, which contributed to his fourth career four-touchdown performance and his fourth-highest single-game passer rating. He is the first opposing quarterback to not get sacked or hit by a Ravens defense since Dec. 29, 2013, when the Cincinnati Andy Dalton remained upright in a 34-17 Bengals victory.


"He made some plays," outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil said of Carr. "You have to generate some pass rush on the edges, and we didn't. We just have to watch the film and see where we can get better."

The Ravens had enjoyed some success pressuring quarterbacks through the first three games, compiling nine sacks to settle into a tie for seventh in the league. But after Sunday, they dropped into a tie for 12th. The Ravens will attempt to add to that total against the Washington Redskins and quarterback Kirk Cousins, who has been sacked seven times.


Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs is tied for the team lead with three sacks, but the remaining six sacks have come from defensive linemen. Timmy Jernigan leads the way with three, while Lawrence Guy, Michael Pierce and Brent Urban each have one.

"Those guys up front are getting it done," inside linebacker Zachary Orr said. "You always want to bring blitzes and stuff to keep the offense off-balance and stuff, but whenever your guys can generate a rush without blitzes, it always helps the defense out."

The defensive coaches' faith in the players' ability to pressure quarterbacks without blitzing is evident in the numbers. According to figures provided by Pro Football Focus, the Ravens have blitzed 43 times out of 152 passing plays for a blitz rate of 28.3 percent. The league average thus far is 30.8 percent.

According to Pro Football Focus, the Ravens have sent four rushers 104 times, and 38 of those plays resulted in a sack, hit or hurry. The defense has employed five rushers on 30 plays, resulting in 16 with a sack, hit or hurry. The unit has used six rushers just 11 times with two plays ending with a sack, hit or hurry.


The Ravens' 53.3 percent pressure rate with five rushers ranks first in the NFL. Their 36.5 percent rate with four rushers ranks fifth, but their 18.2 percent rate with six rushers ranks 30th out of 32 teams.

Under defensive coordinator Dean Pees, the defense has not developed a reputation for throwing exotic blitz packages at opponents. But that's fine with some players, who argue there is no need to trick up the pass rush.

"I like what we're doing," free safety Lardarius Webb said. "I'm going to leave that to Dean Pees to keep doing what he does. I like the play calls. I think it's working. Like I said, we've just got to keep working on the communication, and our defense will get even better."

Similarly, outside linebacker Albert McClellan said he is not overly concerned.

"It's just all about scheme," he said. "We've got to get the right personnel, the right grouping out there so that we can kind of catch them off-guard and surprise them. We've just got to get back to our fundamentals and work on certain things."

But the unit failed to get to Carr, who worked behind an offensive line that started rookie Vadal Alexander at right tackle for the injured Menelik Watson. Carr, who has been sacked just twice in 2016, had plenty of time to process his reads and connect with Seth Roberts for one touchdown and Michael Crabtree for three against the Ravens.

"He was getting the ball out pretty quick," Orr said. "… He does a great job. As soon as he feels pressure, he gets out of the pocket to either throw it away or run for yards or find the open receiver."

The most encouraging thought among the Ravens is that the return of Dumervil, who made his 2016 debut against the Raiders after sitting out the first three games because of a setback related to offseason foot surgery, will bolster the team's ability to pressure. Opposing offenses will now have to worry about Suggs on one side and Dumervil on the other, opening up lanes to get after the quarterback.

Dumervil looked rusty in his first game and said there is much to work on.

"As a pass rusher, you always want to put the onus on yourself and look in the mirror and say, 'How can I get better?'" he said. "So that's what I'll do this week."

Suggs, who missed the final 15 games of the 2015 campaign after tearing his left Achilles tendon, promised that the pass rush would improve.

"We need to have all of our horses racing," he said. "We'll get [Dumervil] to knock some rust off, get me to knock some more rust off and we'll all just continue to work. We're not a team that gets satisfied very easy."

But the season is relatively young, which is why coach John Harbaugh is not ready to begin worrying.

"We're not going to change anything," he said. "We have a system, and we have a plan in place. We're not going to panic. We didn't get to the quarterback. There's a few tweaks that we're talking about making, but you won't notice in terms of how we call things or how we execute things that we're working on. We're capable of having a great pass rush, and we plan on having a great pass rush."


Rush hour

The Ravens collected nine sacks through the first three games, but were shut out in Sunday's 28-27 loss to the Oakland Raiders. Here is a look at their rate of success when rushing with a certain number of players.

No. of rushers; No. of plays; Plays with sack, hit or hurry; NFL rank

3; 7; 1 (14.3% pressure rate); 21st

4; 104; 38 (36.5% pressure rate); 5th

5; 30; 16 (53.3% pressure rate); 1st

6+; 11; 2 (18.2% pressure rate); 30th

Source: Pro Football Focus

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