Ravens: Jets rush defense off to slow start

Written by on September 29, 2011 in Ravens, Sports - No comments

OWINGS MILLS — It’s been only three games.

That was center Matt Birk’s response when asked about the Jets’ rushing defense, which sits at an uncharacteristically low 31st in the NFL. The Jets gave up 234 rushing yards (171 to running back Darren McFadden) in a 34-24 loss to the Raiders last Sunday.

“They had one bad game,” Birk said. “Everyone loves to fall in love with stats but this is a very formidable rush defense, a very formidable pass defense.”

In the Jets’ first game of the season against Dallas, they held the Cowboys to just 64 yards rushing. They followed that with another decent outing against Jacksonville, surrendering 112 yards on the ground (88 to running back Maurice Jones-Drew).

The Oakland explosion was surprising  not only to the Ravens, but around the league.

“I think it’s an aberration,” coach John Harbaugh said. “The Jets defense, we recognize what they’ve been doing for the last three years.”

The Ravens have run the ball well at times through three games. Ray Rice is averaging 5.6 yards per carry and Ricky Williams has a 5.1 yards per carry average himself. However, Tennessee was able to stifle the Ravens in the run game in Week 2, holding them to just 45 yards on the ground.

The biggest thing the Ravens have been able to do is create bigger plays with the running backs. Rice has runs of 53 and 36 yards already this season. Rice also has four receptions for 20 yards or longer. Williams also has a 28-yard scamper.

Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has an easy explanation for this success.

“It’s plain and simple,” Cameron said. “It’s blocking. Is everyone writing that down?”

Cromartie: Smith had “one good game”

The trash talking continues.

Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie, speaking with the New York media, didn’t seem all that impressed with wide receiver Torrey Smith’s performance against St. Louis this past Sunday. Smith hauled in five catches for 152 yards and three touchdowns. Smith’s three touchdowns came on his first three career catches.

“He had one big game,” Cromartie told reporters. “That’s it.”

Smith’s seen some early success filling in for injured receiver Lee Evans, and as Cameron said before Cromartie’s comments, a lot will depend on how he handles it. Cromartie, a veteran corner, could be playing mind games with the Ravens rookie.

“He’s had a three-game career,” Cromartie said. “There’s nothing on him.”

If Evans can’t play this Sunday then Smith will be the Ravens’ No. 2 wide receiver again. On Wednesday, Smith, drawing more attention than he did all training camp, said it was good to get off to a good start early in his career.

“I’m glad it’s out of the way but at the same time my focus is the same,” Smith said. “When my number’s called, make the play.”

Nightmare on Holmes Street

Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano acknowledged the threat Jets receiver Santonio Holmes presents. Then he joked about having nightmares about the receiver torching the Ravens in three losses to the Steelers, Holmes’ former team, in 2008.

“He’s a great talent, he’s got great skill, he’s a threat down the field,” Pagano said. “He’s been a Raven killer. Let’s go back to my nightmares, when I wake up in the middle of the night sweating. It’s because I think of the three losses in ‘08. He had a hand in all of them. They were all scramble plays. Ben found him and he created touchdowns.”

Grubbs returns to practice

Left guard Ben Grubbs returned to practice Thursday. He was listed as having limited participation.

Grubbs said his injured toe is still sore, though he was able to do some light jogging on it on Wednesday. If Grubbs is able to play, he will take a Toradol shot to numb the pain.

“My thought process is just to take baby steps,” Grubbs said. “Hopefully by Sunday I’ll be ready to go.”

Thursday’s injury report

Did not participate in practice: Wide receiver Lee Evans, cornerback Jimmy Smith, wide receiver/kick returner David Reed, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, safety Haruki Nakamura (knee).

Limited participation: Left guard Ben Grubbs (toe).

Full participation: Center Matt Birk, defensive end Cory Redding.

By Jason Butt

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