A defensive double-take
Ravens’ schemes will look familiar
Excuse members of the Patriots offense if they feel like they’ve already played the Baltimore Ravens, even though the teams are meeting for the first time this season Sunday at Gillette Stadium. Technically, the Patriots haven’t faced the Ravens since 2007, but they got a dose of their defense in a 16-9 loss to the Jets and coach Rex Ryan, Baltimore’s former defensive coordinator.
The Jets’ defense held the Patriots without a touchdown for the first time since 2006 and hit quarterback Tom Brady seven times. You can bet Baltimore will be viewing the tape.
“We run the same defense,’’ said Ravens defensive end Trevor Pryce. “So you have to at least frustrate Tom Brady. You’re not going to sack him, because he’s going to get rid of the ball. But you have to at least do your best to kind of get in his face, make some of his throws go off target. But if you don’t do that, you don’t stand a chance.’’
Patriots left guard Logan Mankins said Baltimore does a lot of the same things it did when Ryan was running the defense, but has added some wrinkles. And having faced the Jets can’t hurt.
“It’s going to help,’’ said Mankins. “It darn sure can’t hurt because the Jets do so many different things and a lot of the things the Ravens do, so it’s going to help.’’
Mankins also said the Ravens’ defensive success is about a lot more than a scheme. It’s the players - such as safety Ed Reed and linebacker Ray Lewis, whom he called “two of probably the best players in the history of football at their positions,’’ as well as outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, outside linebacker Jarret Johnson and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.
That’s why Bill Belichick downplayed any possible benefit the Patriots might get from having faced a similar defense.
“Maybe a little bit, but I think the more important factor - the overriding factor - is the players and dealing with the Ravens’ players, and the talent they have on the defensive side of the ball,’’ said the Patriots coach. “That’s what really makes them a good defensive football team. They have a good scheme, but they have real good players and those players cause a lot of problems.’’
Belichick said Sands, at 6 feet 7 inches and 335 pounds, has the frame to play defensive end or inside. Sands was released by the Raiders after training camp but has been in the league since 2001.
“It’s rare to see a player that’s that size, that athletic, and that long,’’ Belichick said. “I think, on paper, he has some flexibility; whether that is actually the case in our defense or not, we’ll have to wait and see.’’
The addition of Sands had nothing to do with Vince Wilfork, who sprained his left ankle against the Falcons, said Nick Caserio, the team’s director of player personnel. Caserio described the move as similar to when the Patriots brought in offensive tackle Kendall Simmons in training camp.
“I would say those two situations were similar to the standpoint of there’s a good football player who’s had some production in the league, so we felt there was an opportunity for us to add that particular player to our roster, so we went ahead and made that move,’’ said Caserio. “I would say it was separate to anything else that happened.’’
Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at email@example.com.