Since the franchise moved to Baltimore, the Ravens have typically been defined by their defense.
A physical, hard-nosed group led by stalwart Ray Lewis has been a staple of the team year after year.
But in 2010, the other side of the ball presents just as many problems — particularly in the passing game.
“They probably have the best group in the league,” Champ Bailey said. “The guys are experienced and we have our hands full this week with them.”
The Ravens’ success has come from the ability to spread the ball around the field. Of the team’s top five pass-catchers this season, two are receivers, one is a tight end, one is a running back and one is a fullback. And that’s excluding T.J. Houshmandzadeh — No. 6 on the team’s reception list — who leads the squad in yards per catch and caught the game-winning touchdown last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In other words, quarterback Joe Flacco has plenty of options. And the young signal caller, who Defensive Coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale said “can throw a strawberry through a battleship,” can take advantage of those weapons on any given play.
“If you take one or two of them away, you are going to get hurt by somebody else,” Head Coach Josh McDaniels said. “You have to play everybody well on every pass.”
Virtually every offensive weapon the Ravens have has been to a Pro Bowl — those top six pass-catchers have 12 trips to the NFL’s all-star game between them.
And the receivers’ skill sets aren’t limited to one facet of the game.
“You have some guys that are deep threats, some guys that are third-down (threats),” Martindale said. “All these guys are good football players and that’s the thing that jumps off the tape at you.”
While the defense knows it can’t stop every weapon on every play, Brian Dawkins said the unit is going to make it hard on every one of them.
“We are going to have to make sure that we are tight on the coverages and make sure that — just like we have every week — everybody’s assignment is sound and we get to the ball,” Brian Dawkins said. “Get there and make sure that we bring a physical presence with us when we get there.”
Bailey can’t wait for the challenge.
“Whoever I am on, that is who I am trying to take away,” the veteran cornerback said. “I don’t won’t to give up too much about what we are going to do, but somebody is going to be in a dog fight all day.”
MEN IN BLACK
Cassius Vaughn and Kyle McCarthy donned black jerseys on Thursday, signifying that they excelled in practice in the week leading up to last Sunday’s victory against the Tennessee Titans.
Spencer Larsen (ankle), Knowshon Moreno (hamstring) and Jamal Williams (non-injury related) did not participate in Thursday’s practice. Andre’ Goodman (quadricep) and Wesley Woodyard (hamstring) saw limited participation in the session. Bailey (non-injury related), who did not participate in Wednesday’s practice, was back in action.
For the Ravens, T Jared Gaither (back), LB Tavares Gooden (shoulder), DE Paul Kruger (knee) and WR Donte’ Stallworth (foot) did not participate in practice for the second day in a row — all four players have been listed as out of Sunday’s game. CB Fabian Washington (illness) did not participate on Thursday. LB Edgar Jones (thigh) had limited participation for the second consecutive practice, and TE Todd Heap (shoulder), RB Le’Ron McClain (shoulder) and RB Ray Rice (knee) all participated fully in Thursday’s session.
-Gray Caldwell, DenverBroncos.com