De­fense look­ing to jump-start pass rush

Af­ter fail­ing to pres­sure Raiders’ Carr, Ravens drop into tie for 12th in sacks

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Ed­ward Lee

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

Carr was not sacked or hit once, which con­trib­uted to his fourth ca­reer four­touch­down per­for­mance and his fourth­high­est 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 Cincin­nati’s Andy Dal­ton re­mained up­right in a 34-17 vic­tory by the Ben­gals.

“He made some plays,” Ravens 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, sack­ing them nine times to set­tle into a tie for sev­enth in the league in that cat­e­gory. 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 have one each.

“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 this Sun­day, 1 p.m. TV: Chs. 45, 5 Ra­dio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM Line: Ravens by 4

“We have a sys­tem, and we have a plan in place. We’re not go­ing to panic.”

sea­son is 30.8 per­cent.

Ac­cord­ing to Pro Foot­ball Fo­cus, the Ravens have sent four rush­ers 104 times, with 38 of those plays re­sult­ing in a sack, hit or hurry. The de­fense has used 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.

“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 con­cerned.

“It’s just all about scheme,” he said. “We’ve got to get the right per­son­nel, the

Rush hour

The Ravens had nine sacks through the first three games but none 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 3 7 4 104 5 30 6+ 11 Source: Pro Foot­ball Fo­cus 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.

“He­was 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.” Plays with sack, hit or hurry 1 (14.3% pres­sure rate) 38 (36.5% pres­sure rate) 16 (53.3% pres­sure rate) 2 (18.2% pres­sure rate) NFL rank 21st 5th 1st 30th

Coach John Har­baugh

The most en­cour­ag­ing thought is that the re­turn of Dumervil, who made his 2016 de­but against the Raiders af­ter sit­ting out the first three games­be­cause of a set­back re­lated to off­sea­son foot surgery, will bol­ster the Ravens’ abil­ity to pres­sure. Op­pos­ing of­fenses will have to worry about Suggs on one side and Dumervil on the other, open­ing 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, ‘How­can I get bet­ter?’ ” he said. “So that’s what I’ll do this week.”

Suggs, who missed the fi­nal 15 games of the 2015 sea­son 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.”

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