- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 12, 2002

OWINGS MILLS, Md. Goose, Jelly and Sam, where are you? After one game, it's evident the Baltimore Ravens sorely miss run-stopping defensive tackles Tony Siragusa, Lional Dalton and Sam Adams.

Run, if you dare, used to be the rallying cry for the Ravens stout defense. With the Ravens switching to a 3-4 defense this season from their once-feared 4-3, the woeful Carolina Panthers (1-0) were able to run the ball at will against the Ravens in last Sunday's 10-7 win.

The Panthers rushed for 145 yards on 36 carries against the Ravens' new defensive scheme. Last season, the Ravens defense finished second in the league behind the Pittsburgh Steelers and allowed opponents 88.2 yards rushing a game.

For the third time in his career, five-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker Ray Lewis led the league in tackles (196) and Peter Boulware led the AFC in sacks with 15 but that was with last season's 4-3.

The Ravens made the switch to a 3-4 this season playing to the strength of their defense, which is led by linebackers Lewis, Boulware, Ed Hartwell, Shannon Taylor, veteran Bernardo Harris, Cornell Brown and rookie free agent Bart Scott. Last Sunday's game showed that the defense is still a work in progress.

"They ran for 145 yards so you can never be happy about that performance," said Ravens defensive end Michael McCrary. "There is definitely room for improvement on that. We need to play more disciplined and jell together as a group."

The Panthers did such a good job of running the ball in the second half that 36-year-old quarterback Rodney Peete attempted only five passes. Of the Panthers' 15 first downs, six were earned by running the ball.

Mike Nolan, who replaced Marvin Lewis as the Ravens defensive coordinator this season, said salary cap issues decimated his defensive line, forcing the Ravens to make changes.

"Our top seven linemen, with the exception of Michael [McCrary], are gone," Nolan said. "That in itself makes you think, 'What am I going to do?' At one point, we were in a 2-5, we weren't in a 3-4 or 4-3. Over time, the young guys will mature and we'll also add some players as we go on."

Give the Ravens' defense some credit. They held the Panthers to 10 points and 265 total yards. Then again, look who the Ravens (0-1) played. Baltimore's defense did not go against a finely tuned offensive machine like the St. Louis Rams, Denver Broncos, San Francisco 49ers or even the Fun 'n' Gun offense a mere hour south down I-95.

"It's just one extra linebacker versus a defensive end, I don't think it's a big difference, but the only thing I know, whether it's a 4-3 or a 3-4, your job is the same," said up-and-coming defensive end Adalius Thomas. "Most of the Panthers' runs were outside runs. They ran the ball. They ran the ball more than we thought. That was our first time being on the field together as a unit, so you can expect some mistakes."

From Dec.20, 1998 until last Dec.23 when Cincinnati's Corey Dillon ran for 127 yards, the Ravens went a span of 50 consecutive games (including the playoffs) of not allowing a 100-yard rusher.

In the Ravens' 3-4, undersized nose tackle Kelly Gregg (6-foot, 310 pounds) is being asked to clog the middle. McCrary is a speed rusher, and for now, is being used primarily in passing situations because of knee surgery last season. Rookie Maake Kemoeatu started in place of McCrary at left end last Sunday. Rookie right end Anthony Weaver missed all of training camp and is hardly battle tested. The Ravens' new starting defensive line combined for only six tackles in Sunday's loss.

"[The Panthers] did a good job of running the ball, but I don't think that has anything to do with the 3-4 or even the personnel that was in there," Boulware said. "I missed tackles and a lot of times other people being lined up in not the right position. If we get everybody lined up in the right position and we make the tackles we're supposed to make, we're going to be pretty tough out there. The 3-4 gives the linebackers a lot of opportunities to make plays."


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