The Ravens defense is built on the foundation of first stopping the run.
But in Saturday's preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts, the Ravens'first-team defense lost the battle in the trenches. The Ravens gave up an average of 4 yards per carry on the night, and after the game Head Coach John Harbaugh delivered a message to his run defenders that he expects more out of the group.
"We're not a 4-yard a gain team. It's not going to be acceptable," Harbaugh said. "It's not good run defense for the Ravens to give up 3 yards. I don't want anybody to be cheering about that, saying that's a good job, especially on our sideline, which I heard a few too many times. One yard, 2 yards, I'm pissed, even. But I can live with it. Three yards I can't live with. Zero yards is what we're looking for."
The Colts were able to get a steady push up front against Baltimore's starting defense, which had defensive linemen Brandon Williams and Timmy Jernigan back in the lineup. The success on the ground led to short-yardage situations on second and third downs, and the Colts were able to consistently move the chains when starting quarterback Andrew Luck was in the game.
The Ravens gave up 104 total yards in two series to Luck and their starting offense.
"Hey, competition is on," Harbaugh said. "If you're dominating against the run and you're a defensive lineman, you've got a chance to make it on this team because we need to get in third-and-long, pin our ears back and go get quarterbacks."
While the defense gave up the long drives, it did come up with a turnover on the Colts' second series. Linebacker Albert McClellan forced a fumble and safety Eric Weddle recovered the ball, which is a good sign for a team that put a large emphasis on takeaways all offseason.
"Really that comes from running to the football — having more guys around the football than they do when the ball is on the ground," Harbaugh said. "And on that play you could see we were buzzing around that ball, so that was good to see."
The long drives from the Colts comes a week after the Panthers put up a long scoring drive in quarterback Cam Newton's only series of work. In three preseason series against first-team offenses, Baltimore's starting defense has allowed 171 yards and two field goals.
The group hasn't given up big plays, but the Pro Bowl quarterbacks were able to connect on short routes to methodically drive down the field.
"A couple of times early in the game, you play a little safe, or a little loose, and gave Andrew [Luck] a couple of completions that maybe we should have contested a little tighter," Harbaugh said. "And they came off the field and were talking about it, knowing it. We don't want give up anything. We want to have pit-bull coverage every single play, regardless of the coverage, regardless of the receiver. We want to be all over people. I thought we did a better job of that in the second half. "
Before sounding the alarm on the defense after two preseason games, it's worth noting that starting outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil have both yet to make their debuts. The Ravens also don't implement any game-planning like they would do for a regular-season game.
"Obviously we're getting good work with these quarterbacks, but the main focus is getting better each week," cornerback Shareece Wright said. "It's not about the offense, it's more about us. It's about what we're doing, what we're trying to get accomplished as a defense."