Expect 'A Big Difference' In Pass Rush


The Ravens led the AFC in sacks last year.

That wasn't reflected in the 2012 preseason, however.

Baltimore notched six sacks in preseason play, tied for the fourth-fewest in the NFL.

It doesn't matter on the surface considering the games don't count. But it would if it transferred to the regular season, starting Monday night against the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Ravens' pass rushers don't envision that happening partly because they know what Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees has in store.

"Once we're in the regular season, I think you're going to see not a completely different game, but there's a big difference between those preseason games and regular-season games," outside linebacker Paul Kruger said.

The preseason isn't the time teams debut new blitzes. Generally it's very vanilla play-calling, which players said led to the low sack totals.

"Coach Pees has a lot of tricks up his sleeve," defensive end Arthur Jones said.

It's well-documented that the Ravens will have to make up for the loss of Terrell Suggs (Achilles). He led the team in sacks four of the past five years, including with a career-high 14 last season. Suggs logged nearly 30 percent of the team's 48 sacks last year.

While the entire defense is putting that responsibility on its shoulders, getting to the quarterback largely falls to top pass rushers Kruger, Courtney Upshaw, Pernell McPhee and Haloti Ngata.

"I feel extremely confident [in our pass rush]," Kruger said.

"Look at our guys. We've got Pernell McPhee, we've got Haloti, and I can come off the edge. I don't really see us having a problem with anything, and pass rush is in that category."

While Upshaw and Ngata got a sack each this preseason, Kruger and McPhee were shut out.

McPhee registered six sacks in his rookie season as a fifth-round pick, including one as time expired to seal the Ravens' 31-24 win over Cincinnati at M&T Bank Stadium last year.

There's no more flying under the radar, however. McPhee said he was double-teamed on every play in the first two preseason games, and opponents ran the ball at him to try to neutralize his pass rush and test whether he could hold up against the power game.

"It's all good," McPhee said. "I learn off of things and get better. It's all part of being a successful player."

Upshaw was disappointed in his lack of sacks this preseason. The second-round pick was quickly tabbed as Suggs' fill-in after playing the same position in college and notching seven sacks as a junior at Alabama and another 9.5 as a senior.

"I want to get sacks. That's my goal," Upshaw said, adding that he feels a lot of people doubted his pass-rushing skills when he was drafted.

"I think it's just on that individual person to kick up their competition level and get to the quarterback."

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