Harbaugh, Ravens prepare to face familiar foes vs. Jets
The Ravens enjoyed their best day of the season on the ground at Chicago, churning out 174 yards against the league’s 31st-ranked run defense. The yardage figures to be much tougher to come by on Sunday, however, when Rex Ryan brings the Jets defense to M&T Bank Stadium. Tough defense up front was a calling card of Ryan’s when he was with the Ravens, and that hasn't changed at all in his five seasons with the Jets.
“We’re No. 1 in the league versus the run. That’s no surprise,” Ryan said in a conference call with Baltimore media on Wednesday. “We’re No. 1 in rushing average too, so come in and run it at us if you want.”
That hasn’t gone well for most teams.
The Jets have allowed 73.2 rushing yards a game and 2.9 yards a carry, both of which are lowest in the league.
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“Obviously, that’s a tradition with Rex,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s had those over the years from time to time. (He) is a very good coach, a very good defensive coach, and a very good front coach. I’d say it’s right along the line of what they’ve been known for.”
Ryan was the Ravens defensive coordinator from 2005-08, and in those four years the Ravens defense never ranked lower than sixth. It was No. 1 in 2006.
At the heart of the Ryan’s Jets defense is a front three featuring Muhammad Wilkerson, Damon Harrison and rookie first-round pick Sheldon Richardson. Wilkerson has a team-high eight sacks, but the 315-pounder out of Temple “plays the run great,” Ryan said. The stats Web site Pro Football Focus ranks Harrison No. 1 against the run among all defensive tackles.
Inside linebackers David Harris (90) and Demario Davis (75) rank first and second in tackles, while outside linebackers Calvin Pace (six sacks) and Quinton Coples are major factors rushing from the edge. But with Ryan’s exotic and varied blitz schemes, pressure could come from anywhere.
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“They’re known for bringing a lot of pressure,” Ravens tackle Eugene Monroe said. “That’s just what they do, and we’ll have to be ready for it.”
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said a Rex Ryan defense prides itself on “making the quarterback uncomfortable.”
Ryan ran the Ravens defense in Flacco’s rookie year, and Flacco recalls that Ryan’s defense that season “put a lot of pressure on quarterbacks to play under duress and see if they can do it or see if they’re going to buckle. I think it’s a pretty good philosophy when it comes to playing defense.”