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Ravens O-Line to Face Fearsome 4


Defensive tackles in the NFL are typically valued for their ability to hold up blockers so the linebackers behind them can make plays.

That is not the case with the Tennessee Titans, who face the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium this Sunday.

Baltimore is coming off a 23-20 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers where quarterback Joe Flacco was sacked five times, but all of those were by blitzing linebackers. The 4-0 Titans can generate pressure up the middle, behind the disruptive play of Pro Bowler Albert Haynesworth and the unheralded Tony Brown.

Add fellow Pro Bowler Kyle Vanden Bosch and former pass-rushing star Jevon Kearse as the defensive ends, and Tennessee features a terrifying front line.

"They're one of the best defenses in the league, period," said head coach John Harbaugh of the league's fifth-ranked unit. "Certainly, one of the best D-lines. [On] the left side there are two Pro Bowl players, and then you forget about Jevon Kearse on the right side.

"They've got four really good players in there, so it's going to be a challenge for our offensive line. Probably as good as we've seen this year."

Haynesworth, 6-foot-6, 320 pounds, has drawn comparisons to Haloti Ngata in his defensive tackle play. Some at their position are merely space-eaters, but Haynesworth and Ngata are more athletic and agile than most of their behemoth brethren.

Following an All-Pro campaign for the first time in his career, Haynesworth has been a monster. He is the NFL's second-leading sacker, with five, and sixth on his team with 21 tackles - gaudy numbers for an interior offensive lineman.

Tied for eighth in sacks is Brown, who boasts 3.5. The 6-foot-3, 290-pounder notched 83 stops last year and already has 19 this season.

"They're big-bodied, high-motor guys, so it's going to be a test," said Baltimore starting right tackle Adam Terry.

That test continues to the ends, where Vanden Bosch is coming off a 12-sack performance in 2007 and Kearse, a 10-year veteran, has 71 sacks over his entire career.

But even when Tennessee's front four doesn't get the opposing quarterback, the group can still affect the passing game.

Putting heat on the pocket with only four players allows a defense to drop more in coverage, clog passing lanes and create confusion.

"Obviously, when you're dropping more, you have more options into what coverages you can run," explained Ravens linebacker Jarret Johnson. "You can get more people underneath, run Cover 5, things like that. There are a lot less alleys for the quarterback to throw through.

"It's a big advantage to only rush four."

The Ravens' offensive line is looking to rebound from Monday's performance in Pittsburgh. After the unit only surrendered one sack in its first two games, Flacco was hit numerous times, even losing a fumble that linebacker LaMarr Woodley returned for a touchdown.

Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron attributed the Steelers' outburst to one-on-one breakdowns, but also noted that blocking is an effort that includes the running backs and tight ends.

"You want to bounce back," Terry said. "When you have a bad day at work and the photocopier is broken, you just have to kick the copier and keep working. We have to go out and practice and get better.

"We can't be satisfied with prior performances, because you're only as good as your last game."

And while the upcoming game is a formidable way to right those wrongs, Cameron believes Baltimore's offense is up to the challenge, in part because of a defense it faces every practice.

"This week, some people say this is one of the better defenses in the league," explained Cameron of the Titans' unit. "But what a great advantage for us with the guys we go against. I keep reminding our guys, 'Haynesworth is a heck of a player, but Haloti Ngata's a heck of a player. Their ends are good, but we see [linebacker Terrell] Suggs every day, and we see Jarret Johnson.'

"We see a great look every day, and our defense gives us a chance for preparation."

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