Weak sec­ondary cost­ing Ravens again

Baltimore Sun - - RAVENS INSIDER - Mike Pre­ston good­bye. mike.pre­ston@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/MikePre­stonSun

EAST RUTHER­FORD, N.J. — A ma­jor weak­ness the Ravens claimed they had over­come showed up again Sun­day.

De­spite the New York Gi­ants’ ef­forts to give the game away, and the of­fi­cials nearly help­ing them, the Ravens were too in­ept in the sec­ondary in their 27-23 loss at MetLife Sta­dium.

The Ravens have had this prob­lem for the past cou­ple of years, but thought they had solved it, or at least im­proved the cov­er­age, with the ad­di­tion of safety Eric Wed­dle and the move of cor­ner­back Lar­dar­ius Webb to safety.

Theyalso added a gifted rookie cor­ner­back in Tavon Young to a ros­ter that al­ready in­cluded Jimmy Smith, Will Davis and Sha­reece Wright. Well, guess what? They all got toasted Sun­day. New York quar­ter­back Eli Man­ning com­pleted 32 of 46 passes for 403 yards and three touch­downs. On the other end of most of his throws was re­ceiver Odell Beck­ham Jr., who caught eight passes for 222 yards, in­clud­ing a 66-yard touch­down that proved to be the gamewin­ner with 1:24 re­main­ing.

Worse yet, it was a short pass that Beck­ham turned into a long run. It also re­vealed a lot about the prob­lems in the Ravens’ sec­ondary. They couldn’t tackle, and the Ravens looked aw­fully slow as Beck­ham ran across the field, un­touched.

“You have to play tight cov­er­age; you have to tackle,” Wed­dle said. “Big plays al­ways kill you. We say it ev­ery day.

“When you miss a tackle or are out of po­si­tion in a quick pass­ing game like this, it can kill you. That’s what hap­pened. We’ll get bet­ter from this. You learn from your Cor­ner­backs Jimmy Smith, tack­ling the Gi­ants’ Vic­tor Cruz, and Jer­raud Pow­ers left the game in the sec­ond quar­ter with in­juries. “Guys just got to step up,” cor­ner­back Tavon Young said. mis­takes and get bet­ter.”

We’ve heard that be­fore through the years. The Ravens get it to­gether against weak pass­ing teams such as the Cleve­land Browns, Buf­falo Bills and Jack­sonville Jaguars, which is why they were ranked fifth in the NFL in pass de­fense be­fore Sun­day’s game.

But when they play a de­cent quar­ter­back like Man­ning, they strug­gle. And it will get worse when they face Ben Roeth­lis­berger, Andy Dal­ton, Tom Brady, Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz in fu­ture games.

Some will say the rules fa­vor of­fen­sive play­ers and that good pass­ing teams will con­sis­tently gain big yards, but there are no rea­sons for missed tack­les and poor pur­suit an­gles. Young ac­knowl­edged botch­ing the cov­er­age on Beck­ham’s touch­down catch, in which he got bumped and knocked to the ground by Wed­dle.

“I’ll take the blame on that one,” Young said. “They ran some kind of pick and slant, and I have to im­prove my tech­nique. I have to be flat­ter, get the re­ceiver flat­ter, and then I wouldn’t have got­ten picked. But give Beck­ham credit; he made a good play.”

OK, Young gets some slack be­cause he is a rookie. Davis has no ex­cuses. Coach John Har­baugh had warned the Ravens all week about dou­ble moves. Then, in the third quar­ter, Beck­ham ran a 7-yard turn that Davis tried to jump. Beck­ham turned to the out­side and He caught a 76-yard touch­down pass down the right side­line.

“We got to have bet­ter cov­er­age. Can’t give up big plays and touch­downs,” Davis said. “Against this team, you have to stay dis­ci­plined, take the lever­age and use your help to make tack­les. I def­i­nitely got beat on that dou­ble move.”

The Ravens were with­out their top cor­ner­back, Smith, who did not re­turn af­ter a con­cus­sion in the sec­ond quar­ter. They also lost cor­ner­back Jer­raud Pow­ers in the same quar­ter with a groin in­jury. But Smith has strug­gled this sea­son and also had prob­lems lay­ing off re­ceivers and get­ting caught peek­ing into the back­field in­stead of cov­er­ing his man.

Re­gard­less, all teams have in­juries. Next man up — isn’t that the mantra?

“Guys just got to step up. Guys filled in. I was play­ing out­side, back to nickel, back to the out­side,” Young said. “You’ve got to have that mind­set. Be a dog. Ev­ery­body has got to know what each po­si­tion is and know the plays.”

There are no ex­cuses. The Ravens have some young play­ers with po­ten­tial, but not one who can shut down the other team’s top re­ceiver week to week. They haven’t had one since Chris McAlis­ter left the team af­ter the 2008 sea­son.

It be­comes more glar­ing when the Ravens face a qual­ity quar­ter­back and can’t pres­sure him. Man­ning was sacked only once and hit just two other times.

“We’re cer­tainly ca­pable of not giv­ing up big plays, so that’s the thing — it’s not go­ing to be OK,” Har­baugh said. “I be­lieve we have tal­ented guys. We have guys who are fully ca­pable of cov­er­ing a guy out there. We’ve done it all year. But we don’t have our eyes in therightspotall­thetime. SoIwant­dis­ci­plined guys­back­there, andthosearetheguys­thatare go­ing to play go­ing for­ward.”

LLOYD FOX/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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