CON­SIS­TENT PASS RUSH THE LAST PIECE OF A COM­PLETE DE­FENSE

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - Mike Pre­ston

Don “Wink” Martin­dale has only been the Ravens de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor for one year, but he knows how to de­liver sub­tle mes­sages.

When asked re­cently what he had seen out of out­side linebacker Shane Ray, who had a de­cent pre­sea­son game against the Jack­sonville Jaguars last week, Martin­dale gave a glimpse into the edge rusher com­pe­ti­tion.

“Shane had a cou­ple nice pass rushes in the game. To me, it’s a dead heat. That can be a good thing, or that can be a bad thing. When you’re look­ing at it from the coach­ing per­spec­tive, you want some­body to jump out and be a lit­tle bit more pro­duc­tive.”

The mes­sage was clear and not just in­tended for Ray. The Ravens want more out of their pass rush and from out­side lineback­ers Tyus Bowser, Tim Williams, Ray, Per­nell McPhee and Jay­lon Fer­gu­son.

In the past, the team al­ways had at least one good pass rusher, dat­ing to Peter Boul­ware and Michael McCrary and Ter­rell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. Now, they don’t have that big al­pha pass rusher.

Suggs went to the Ari­zona Car­di­nals dur­ing the off­sea­son, even though he hadn’t had a vin­tage Suggs year in the pre­vi­ous three. But right now, the Ravens would like some­one to at least match Suggs’ per­for­mance from last sea­son.

There have been flashes. The Ravens had four sacks in a pre­sea­son-open­ing win against Jack­sonville. They played hard and fast, but the Jaguars didn’t play a lot of starters. Martin­dale also stole a page from the play­book of for­mer Ravens de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Rex Ryan.

He blitzed the Jaguars con­stantly, which is in vi­o­la­tion of the un­writ­ten 11th com­mand­ment of NFL coach­ing: Thou shalt not blitz a lot in the pre­sea­son, es­pe­cially in the opener. But there was Martin­dale, di­al­ing up pres­sures like he was call­ing de­fenses for the 1985 Chicago Bears.

That’s why there needs to be cau­tion about the per­for­mance of the Ravens’ pass rush against Jack­sonville and a de­mand by the coach­ing staff for the play­ers to get to the quar­ter­back again and again and again.

Lead­ing up to the Jack­sonville game and in the two prac­tices af­ter the win, the Ravens have got­ten bet­ter at rush­ing the quar­ter­back. Ends Chris Worm­ley and Pa­trick Ri­card are beat­ing guards and get­ting in­side pres­sure with ei­ther speed (Worm­ley) or power (Ri­card).

Both Bowser and Williams showed up and made plays against the Jaguars, and Bowser is hav­ing the best train­ing camp of his three-year ca­reer. Maybe this sea­son is a turn­ing point.

Strong-side linebacker Matthew Judon should turn his game up a notch when the reg­u­lar sea­son starts, and he has the sta­tis­tics to back up that claim. Fer­gu­son, a rookie, played well against the Jaguars and he showed good power with his bull rush, but he has only one move. That’s like a re­ceiver be­ing able to run only one route.

The Ravens signed Ray and fel­low out­side linebacker McPhee to free-agent con­tracts dur­ing the off­sea­son. Ray has played well at times but then dis­ap­pears. McPhee is start­ing at one out­side linebacker po­si­tion, but he can’t han­dle that role full-time.

Even­tu­ally, they will have to work the 30-year-old McPhee into a ro­ta­tion in which he is play­ing about 20 to 25 snaps a game. Hope­fully, the Ravens can find that in­ter­change­able group within the next cou­ple of weeks.

Right now, the coach­ing staff is look­ing for con­sis­tency. If the Ravens can get pres­sure on op­pos­ing quar­ter­backs, they would com­ple­ment a good se­condary and give the team one of the NFL’s most com­plete de­fenses.

Re­gard­less of how good a se­condary is, few cor­ner­backs can cover receivers in the NFL if a quar­ter­back has time to throw. Martin­dale will dig deep into his play­book and come up with a lot of ex­otic blitzes.

When the game is on the line, he’ll go to Cover Zero be­cause he’d rather lose gam­bling than die slowly. But even­tu­ally the Ravens know they’re go­ing to need to get pres­sure from their out­side lineback­ers and line­men.

It’s the key to be­ing a good de­fense and be­com­ing a great one. The Ravens are still try­ing to find a way.

LLOYD FOX/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

De­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Don Martin­dale.

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