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Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Hope and Concern: Ravens' pass rush

By James Walker
ESPN.com

The AFC North blog continues its "Hope and Concern" series Tuesday by taking a look at the pass rush of the Baltimore Ravens.

Biggest reason for hope: increased aggressiveness

New Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano believes he has the answer to Baltimore's pass-rushing woes. According to Pagano, increased aggression should up Baltimore's sack numbers. The Ravens recorded just 27 sacks last season in 16 games, which was ranked No. 27 in the league. Too often the Ravens didn't seem sure when to bring additional pressure and when to stay back in coverage. Former defensive coordinator Greg Mattison bolted for the University of Michigan, opening the door for Pagano to implement a more aggressive style. Drafting cornerback Jimmy Smith in the first round is a strong sign Baltimore plans to put more trust in its cornerbacks this season while bringing extra rushers.

Biggest reason for concern: personnel

With the exception of Terrell Suggs, the Ravens simply do not have the personnel to get to the quarterback. The two most natural pass rushers on the roster are Suggs and 2010 top draft pick Sergio Kindle, who fractured his skull last summer and whose status remains in question. Anything Baltimore gets from Kindle this season should be considered a bonus. Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (5.5 sacks) has pass-rushing ability, but that's far down the line of things he's asked to do. Linebacker Jarret Johnson, whose stats dropped to just 1.5 sacks last season, is a player who gets to the quarterback on sheer will. The Ravens may look to free agency to find a proven pass rusher. But there are not many answers on the open market, because teams do not let go of those type of players.