Pees Grades Pass Rush As 'OK'
In their first showing without reigning Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs, the Ravens defense showed it could still generate a solid pass rush.
While the defense started off slow, it netted four sacks and held Cincinnati to only 13 points. Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees said that the pass rush is still a work in progress.
"I think it's OK," Pees said. "It's not where we want it to be yet."
The Ravens used a number of different looks to get to the quarterback, as Pees had linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties blitz at different times. In the second half, they were able to get steady pressure on Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton once the Bengals fell behind and were forced into passing situations.
Haloti Ngata (two), Ray Lewis (one), Courtney Upshaw (0.5) and Pernell McPhee (0.5) came up with the sacks. The Ravens used a number of rotations along the defensive front, and Pees said they are still working to determine the best personnel groups.
"We are still trying to move parts around a little bit to find out who really belongs where and who can give us the best effect and maybe what we can do scheme-wise to help some of those guys," Pees said. "I think we're OK, we just have to keep improving in that area."
Thompson Doesn't Own Kick Returner Job
Undrafted rookie Deonte Thompson earned a spot on the roster thanks to a strong preseason where he showed off his skills as a return man and receiver. He has breakaway speed and the Ravens put that to use by starting him at kick returner Monday night.
While Thompson got the nod on Monday, Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg said that the job isn't necessarily his to lose.
"It's just like everything else: he doesn't own the job," Rosburg said. "Every week is a different week. There is a different opponent, a different scheme, a different concept that we might be working. We are still working Jacoby [Jones] every day. This last game Deonte had the opportunities, and we will see what happens going forward."
Jones was signed this offseason to provide a boost to the return game, and he worked as a punt returner against Cincinnati. With the punt returner spot, the Ravens also used cornerback Lardarius Webb on Monday, and the plan moving forward appears to be using both of them.
"The way I look at it is we have two guys that both have punt return skills, and we'll use them both," Rosburg said. "They both have scored and can score touchdowns, so having two returners rather than just one, I think, is a benefit."
Upshaw Finally Feeling Better
Top draft pick Courtney Upshaw didn't get the start against Cincinnati, but he was in the rotation at outside linebacker and had a strong showing.
He finished the game with four tackles and 0.5 sacks, and did not appear limited at all by a shoulder injury that slowed him during the preseason.
"He's finally starting to feel better," Pees said. "He's been hurt and there are a lot things he didn't do in preseason, part of it because he was hurt and part of it because he was learning."
Upshaw is the third outside linebacker in the rotation behind Paul Kruger and Albert McClellan. Upshaw has a better grasp on the defense now, that understanding is starting to pay dividends in the games.
"That is starting to come around a little bit now with him," Pees said. "He is starting to feel a little more comfortable in the defense."
Injury Brings Attention To Long Snapper
The Oakland Raiders lost to San Diego Monday night, and a key part of their loss was struggles on special teams. Long snapper Jon Condon left the game with a head injury, and the backup snapper Travis Goethel then botched two snaps, giving the Chargers great field position in the second half.
Most teams only carry one long snapper on the roster, and the Raiders' miscues caught the attention of the Ravens.
"It certainly gets your attention," Rosburg said about the Raiders' game. "Yesterday, we had a few more reps than we normally probably would have, because it brings it to mind. But you always have that in mind; you have to have a backup plan, so to speak. You hope it never happens."
In 2010, Ravens' starting long snapper Morgan Cox suffered a torn ACL in the first quarter of a game against Cleveland, but he played the rest of the game because the Ravens didn't have another viable option. The backup at the time was running back Willis McGahee.
Rosburg would not divulge who the current backup is in case Cox were to go down again.