NFL Nation: Chris Carr

No changes to Saints' injury report

November, 29, 2013
METAIRIE, La. -- There were no changes to the New Orleans Saints’ injury report on Friday. Running back Darren Sproles (ankle) and guard Jahri Evans (ankle) fully participated. Backup defensive end Glenn Foster (knee) was held out. And cornerback Chris Carr (hip, hamstring) was limited.

Sproles and Evans were both held out of last week’s Thursday night game against the Atlanta Falcons after suffering injuries two weeks ago. But obviously the Saints’ decision to rest them paid off. The Saints beat Atlanta 17-13. And now both Sproles and Evans have had extra time to heal up for Monday night’s critical NFC showdown on the road against the Seattle Seahawks.

“It’s hard to (sit out). But that’s what they thought would be best,” Sproles said. “Knowing that we’ve got a big game coming up this week. And they thought it would’ve been too early for me to go back out there and play Thursday night, and then I mess around and hurt it worse than it was.”

Sproles could be a key weapon Monday for the Saints, who might want to rely on a short-range passing attack considering the possible weather conditions and the opponent. Seattle has one of the league’s top defenses when it comes to both rushing the passer and covering receivers down the field.

Saints' Sproles, Evans practice fully

November, 28, 2013
METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints had an injury report to be thankful for on Thursday. Running back Darren Sproles (ankle) and guard Jahri Evans (ankle) practiced fully after missing last Thursday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons. The Saints' offense should be as healthy as it has been all season for Monday's critical NFC showdown at the Seattle Seahawks.

Obviously the extra time following a Thursday night game did the Saints some good. The only player who missed practice Thursday was backup defensive end Glenn Foster (knee). Backup cornerback Chris Carr was limited with hip and hamstring injuries. Everyone else practiced fully.

Foster has been one of the most pleasant surprises on the Saints this year, having a standout season with three sacks as an undrafted rookie out of Illinois. But the Saints will have plenty of depth on the defensive line even if Foster can’t play against the Seahawks. Starters Cameron Jordan and Akiem Hicks are having terrific seasons, and backup ends Tom Johnson and Tyrunn Walker have both been solid in small doses. Walker has been a healthy inactive the past couple weeks since recovering from his own knee injury.
METAIRIE, La. -- Rob Ryan has always been known for his inventiveness and his versatility. He has been described by at least one former player as a “mad scientist” who stays up late into the night devising schemes to combat each specific opponent.

Never was that more on display than this past Sunday, when the New Orleans Saints' defense came up with a huge performance in a 23-20 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

The Saints started the game in a package that included three linemen, five linebackers and just three defensive backs. It was a new package they implemented for the first time this past week as a way to combat the 49ers’ unique style of “scheme runs,” as well as the possibility that San Francisco might run some read-option (which the 49ers didn’t feature much).

[+] EnlargeRob Ryan
Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY SportsRob Ryan cooked up a plan to slow down the San Francisco offense.
“We were ready for everything today,” cornerback Chris Carr said after the game. “It’s like the equivalent of being in college and facing Air Force.”

“We had to stop the run. That was the game plan. … We didn’t want another [Chris] Ivory highlight reel on us,” said outside linebacker Junior Galette, referencing the Saints’ struggles against the New York Jets running back two weeks earlier.

It worked well, as the Saints held San Francisco to a total of 196 yards and 81 rushing yards (both of the 49ers’ touchdowns came via short fields after turnovers).

The Saints used a lot of that 3-5 formation (or was it a 5-3?) throughout Sunday’s game. But that wasn’t their only wrinkle.

On their third play of the game, a third-and-long, they switched to six defensive backs. Later in the game, the Saints had just two true defensive linemen on the field at one point -- with outside linebacker Parys Haralson and end Keyunta Dawson lining up as defensive tackles.

We may see more of that run-specific package -- or more new wrinkles -- when the Saints face the Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers twice down the stretch.

“Most defensive coordinators, you have your base stuff, and maybe you put one or two new calls in, just contingent on what the other team is playing. But with Rob, he’ll make up a totally new scheme, totally new defenses,” said Carr, who also played under Ryan with the Oakland Raiders in the past. “And he has confidence in us that we’ll be able to figure it out, practice it. The most important thing is if you are gonna have a defense like this, where you’re gonna put in new defenses and new schemes, new fronts, that you have guys that are smart football players and that really care about learning the game and buying in.

“And we’ve had a lot of that this season, and I think that’s one of the reasons why we’ve been successful, and hopefully we can just keep it up. And now it’s part of the season where all this stuff we’ve been doing is kind of like our base package. It’s not foreign to us anymore.”

Ryan’s approach could obviously backfire under the wrong circumstances. He drew criticism from some observers when he was with the Dallas Cowboys for throwing too much volume at his players and sacrificing discipline in the process. Perhaps that was even the main reason he was fired after last season by owner Jerry Jones, who wanted to simplify things.

But clearly Ryan has that “buy-in” from his players this year in New Orleans. They’ve embraced the way Ryan tailors his defense to suit their specific strengths and weaknesses -- especially compared to the way they felt last year’s coordinator Steve Spagnuolo was too set in his ways.

Players like Galette, ends Cameron Jordan and Akiem Hicks and safeties Kenny Vaccaro and Malcolm Jenkins are thriving because they’re being used in versatile roles that change depending on the package and the game situation.

"That's the great thing about Rob. He's not set in stone,” said Jordan, who is having a breakout year as a hybrid 3-4/4-3 end. “He's always willing and able to change and adapt to different situations.”

Meanwhile, the entire Saints defense has gone from setting a NFL record for yards allowed last year (440.1 per game) to ranking fourth in the league this year (305.4 per game).

Talk about mixing things up. They’re practically unrecognizable.
METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints have released veteran cornerback Chris Carr, according to a tweet from his agent, Buddy Baker. The Saints have not officially announced the move or how they plan to fill the roster vacancy. But it could be an opening for them to activate linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who is now eligible to come off of short-term injured reserve.

Vilma, who has been back at practice for two weeks, said he’s been feeling good and feels ready to return as soon as the Saints give him the green light.

“I know I’m feeling good running around, and I think I look good on film. It’s really up to Coach to decide when I can play,” said Vilma, who had an arthroscopic clean-up surgery performed on his knee in the preseason.

Vilma has said he would have been healthy enough to return much sooner. But after the Saints decided to put him on short-term injured reserve, he was required him to sit out for eight weeks.

“Fortunately I was able to take that long, almost like an extended rehab period. It was definitely for the better,” Vilma said. “Back then of course, I wanted to try to rush and get back. But it was definitely for the better that I now am able to come back and able to just go out there and run, run around and get back into football shape, get my angles down and my timing.”

Vilma said he doesn’t have any extra motivation to come back in time to play against the New York Jets in New York for the first time since he was traded from the Jets to the Saints in 2008. He said they already played each other in New Orleans in 2009, and most of his coaches and teammates are no longer there. When asked sarcastically if he’d get “misty eyed” being back in the Jets’ home stadium (which is also new), Vilma said, “Dry tears.”

If Vilma does come back, the Saints would most likely ease him into a rotational role since veteran David Hawthorne has played so well as his replacement. When Vilma was asked if he’s even more excited to rejoin the Saints since their defense was playing so well, he was only half-joking when he responded, “There’s a flip side to that. You don’t want to come in and mess it up.”

Carr, meanwhile, had been playing well for the Saints as a backup corner, including a key pass breakup in the end zone last week against the Buffalo Bills. He appeared in five games for the Saints this season with five tackles, an interception and two pass breakups. The Saints will now lean more heavily on second-year cornerback Corey White as the backup in certain nickel and dime packages.
Most significant move: The fact the Saints didn’t release or put Jonathan Vilma on injured reserve or the physically unable to perform list is a very strong sign that the veteran linebacker is expected to be healthy early in the season. That’s very significant. Vilma may be nearing the end of his career, but he still is the emotional leader of this defense and his mere presence makes this unit stronger.

Going in a different direction: Courtney Roby had been a fixture on special teams since his arrival in 2008. But the Saints have some younger, more athletic guys, like Rafael Bush, they want to get involved on special teams. Roby’s value also was hurt by the fact he brought little as a wide receiver. The team elected to keep Andy Tanner over Roby because Tanner has some upside as a receiver.

What’s next: After losing outside linebackers Will Smith and Victor Butler to injuries, the Saints could look at the waiver wire to add some more help for the pass rush.

Saints moves: Released WR Courtney Roby, DE Jay Richardson, CB Chris Carr, S Jim Leonhard. Waived QB Ryan Griffin, WR Preston Parker, FB Austin Johnson, WR, Saalim Hakim, G Elliott Mealer, TE Keavon Milton, TE Michael Higgins, G Andrew Tiller, C Jeremiah Warren, LB Ray Shipman, LB Rufus Johnson, DT Isaako Aaitui, S Jerico Nelson, LB Baraka Atkins, T Marcel Jones, CB Korey Lindsey and CB Jumal Rolle. Placed C Eric Olsen on injured reserve.

CampTour'12: Vikings Day 2

August, 3, 2012
MANKATO, Minn. -- A few thoughts and observations from our second day with the Minnesota Vikings:

  • The team held its fifth consecutive afternoon practice in full pads, and on Friday the temperature had reached 90 degrees by late afternoon. After about an hour of practice, offensive lineman Kevin Murphy left the field with a cold blue towel draped over his head. He left an adjacent area in an ambulance, but coach Leslie Frazier said after practice that Murphy was fine.
  • The Vikings worked on their two-minute drill during 11-on-11. The first-team defense got the better of the offense, allowing seven short completions to quarterback Christian Ponder but not allowing the offense past the 30-yard line before time ran out.
  • Cornerback Antoine Winfield got a veteran's day off Friday, so the nickel defense included Chris Cook, Chris Carr and Zackary Bowman. The Vikings also used a three-man line at times with Everson Griffen as a stand-up pass-rusher. That seems like an appropriate way to use a defensive end who is an experiment at linebacker.
  • Rookie place-kicker Blair Walsh drilled a 55-yard field goal through the middle of the uprights to end practice. The kick had at least another eight yards on it.
  • The Vikings ostensibly had a competition set at the right guard position, but for now second-year player Brandon Fusco is holding onto the job. Friday, veteran Geoff Schwartz returned to the Twin Cities to have an abdominal strain examined.
  • The team will hold its first night practice Saturday at 7 p.m. local time (CT). Frazier made clear it will not include any live tackling drills.
AFC hidden treasures: West | North | South | East NFC: West | North | South | East

Examining a position group that could exceed its preseason expectations:

Offseason practices revealed there might be less reason to panic about the Minnesota Vikings' cornerback position. Although they took a middling response to a personnel disaster in 2011, the team has some options that should make it competitive provided key players remain healthy.

Third-year player Chris Cook, reinstated to the roster after last year's legal problems, looked sharp in pass coverage. Veteran Antoine Winfield appears set to work as a slot/nickel back, and the Vikings have some decent options at the other outside positions. Veteran Chris Carr made the biggest impression during camp, but rookie Josh Robinson's speed will help him get on the field. Fellow veteran Zack Bowman, meanwhile, worked mostly with the third team.

There might not be any 2012 Pro Bowl players in that group, but it has the potential to be more competent than it might appear at first glance.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- So as it turned out, receiver Percy Harvin did participate in a portion of the Minnesota Vikings' first full minicamp practice Tuesday. Adding to what has been a confusing set of messages from him, Harvin said that "nothing's changed" since both he and coach Leslie Frazier said Harvin would not participate in on-field work during this camp.

Harvin said there is "no question" he stands by his earlier statement, which included a threat to hold out from training camp if several unspecified issues are not resolved before then. He eventually said during his second media session that he only wanted to answer football questions, so I asked him about Frazier's plan to get him on the field more often than he was last season -- when he participated in 58 percent of the Vikings' snaps.

Harvin rolled his eyes, shook his head and said: "We'll see. We'll see."

So did Harvin not like the question, or was his body language an indication that the playing-time issue has contributed heavily into his current state of unhappiness? I'm not sure how to read it, but if you're convinced he is simply angling for a new contract, I can tell you that from what I understand, the Vikings' decision-makers were blindsided by his comments and had no inkling that he was upset about anything of substance.

This one will be continued, for sure.

Here are a few thoughts and observations from the first day of minicamp:
  • The first uh-oh moment of spring arrived came when new middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley was unable to practice. Brinkley acknowledged afterward that his sore groin is related to the hip injury that caused him to miss the entire 2011 season. Brinkley needs every offseason snap he can get if he is to replace free agent E.J. Henderson, and it's concerning that the hip is causing residual effects 10 months after surgery. This will be an area of concern for the Vikings all summer. Meanwhile, second-year player Tyrone McKenzie worked Tuesday in his spot.
  • Free-agent acquisition Chris Carr worked as the third cornerback. Carr played outside when the Vikings went to the nickel, with Antoine Winfield moving inside to play the slot receiver and Chris Cook holding down the other outside spot. My guess is that's the way the Vikings will go into training camp as well.
  • Winfield grabbed an easy interception during team drills when quarterback Christian Ponder seemed to think twice about throwing a pass. Ponder couldn't pull back his arm in time, and Winfield snatched the soft toss from the air.
  • The offensive play of the day was a red zone pass from Ponder to tight end John Carlson, who got free between two defenders and then dunked the ball over the goal post for good measure.
It wasn't Ravens coach John Harbaugh's preference to have starting cornerback Lardarius Webb returning punts entering this offseason. His mindset probably didn't change after Webb agreed to a five-year, $50 million extension with a $10 million signing bonus and a $5 million option bonus.

Having Webb field punts was a risk before. Now, it has become a pricey proposition. The Ravens will try hard to find a replacement for Webb on returns, and it probably will come in the draft.

"You can’t sit there and play scared, so I don’t have a problem with [Webb returning],” Harbaugh said Wednesday, a day before Webb's deal. “But I would rather have a backup doing it? Yes. If there is another option that is a better player or takes your starting corner and takes him off the punt return, that’s even better."

Webb ranked 16th in the NFL in punt returns (10-yard average), returning one for a touchdown. The other two punt returners listed on last year's Ravens depth chart -- Chris Carr (Vikings) and Tom Zbikowski (Colts) -- signed elsewhere in free agency.

Baltimore brought in Ted Ginn Jr. for a free-agent visit but he re-signed with the 49ers. The Ravens were also linked to Eddie Royal before he joined the San Diego Chargers.

“We tried to do something with a free agent or two, and it didn’t work out, but that’s OK,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll move on to the next opportunity.”

That "next opportunity" means the draft. One returner to keep an eye on is Fresno State's Devon Wylie. Other top returners coming out of college are: Florida International's T.Y. Hilton, Alabama's Marquis Maze and Stanford's Chris Owusu.
When we last checked in on the Minnesota Vikings' defensive backfield, they had signed free agent cornerback Zack Bowman to a one-year contract and were continuing to fulfill the mantra of new general manager Rick Spielman: "Value" players from free agency and blue-chippers from the draft.

That's the way to view their latest move, a one-year deal with free agent Chris Carr that the Jason La Canfora of the NFL's web site first reported Wednesday. Carr was a full-time starter for the Baltimore Ravens in 2010 but appeared in only nine games, and 17.5 percent of the Ravens' defensive snaps, in 2011 because of a hamstring injury. He'll turn 29 later this month and will join a crowded if underwhelming group of contenders for the Vikings' 2012 cornerback rotation.

Carr and Bowman will compete for time with holdovers Antoine Winfield, Chris Cook and Asher Allen. If you were hoping for a more significant addition, then I would suggest looking toward the draft. That's where Spielman has said his best players will come from, and it's fair to hold him to that assertion.
Denver is visiting with Houston tight end Joel Dreessen. He is a Colorado native. Denver is also talking to tight end Jacob Tamme, who played with Peyton Manning in Indianapolis.

The Houston Chronicle is reporting Dreessen said he will choose between the Texans and Broncos by Friday morning. It will be interesting to see if Denver would want Dreessen and Tamme. The Broncos also have second-year players Julius Thomas (who they are high on) and Virgil Green, who faces a four-game NFL suspension for using a banned substance.

Meanwhile, cornerback William Gay visited the Broncos on Wednesday. The Broncos are bringing in Tracy Porter on Thursday. I think one of the two have a good chance to be signed.

In other AFC West news:

Because of the money Oakland paid Khalif Barnes, there is good reason to think he will start in 2012 ahead of second-year player Joe Barksdale.

Oakland fans must check out this video about Sebastian Janikowski.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Drew Stanton had a chance to be Kansas City’s backup before signing with the Jets. The Chiefs have since signed former Denver backup Brady Quinn.

NFL Network reports the Chiefs are visiting with cornerback Chris Carr. He would fill a depth role.

AFC North team needs: Bengals

March, 12, 2012
Free agent officially kicks off at 4 p.m. Tuesday, so let's take a look at the three biggest needs for the Bengals:

1. Guard: The Bengals need to significantly upgrade both guard positions if they want to improve their running game. Both starters from last season -- Nate Livings and Bobbie Williams -- are free agents, along with backup Mike McGlynn. The best route for the Bengals to take is to find one starter in free agency and another in the draft. The Ravens' Ben Grubbs would be a great fit, but he will be expensive (but not as pricey as the Saints' Carl Nicks). A cheaper alternative (but a much more short-term option) is Steve Hutchinson, who was released by the Vikings on Saturday. The second-tier guards like the Panthers' Geoff Schwartz, the Titans' Jake Scott and the Texans' Mike Brisiel all have major question marks.

2. Wide receiver: Cincinnati found its big-play receiver in the draft last season, taking A.J. Green with the fourth overall pick. Now, the Bengals need to add a consistent No. 2 wide receiver, and they will look to free agency for that complimentary target to Green. Last season, Andy Dalton couldn't depend on Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell, who ran bad routes and dropped too many passes. Simpson and Caldwell are free agents and aren't high on the team's priority list. The Colts' Reggie Wayne would be the best choice because of his consistency and experience, but he is looking to go to an established championship contender. The Saints' Robert Meachem might be the top option with his speed and red-zone prowess. If the Bengals want a veteran possession-type receiver, they could try to lure the Patriots' Deion Branch to Cincinnati.

3. Cornerback: The Bengals will likely draft a cornerback in the early rounds as the eventual replacement to Nate Clements, but they need to address their depth at this position in free agency. Leon Hall is coming off a season-ending Achilles injury, and it's uncertain whether he will be ready when the regular season begins. As far as their own free-agent cornerbacks, the Bengals are not expected to re-sign Adam Jones, and have to make a decision on whether to bring back Kelly Jennings. A veteran backup like the Ravens' Chris Carr might interest the Bengals.

AFC North roster moves

March, 1, 2012

There were two roster moves made in the division, and neither come as a surprise. The Steelers released defensive end Aaron Smith (according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter), and the Ravens cut cornerback Chris Carr (according to the NFL Network).

Both were based as much on performance as salary-cap ramifications. Smith, who is scheduled to make $2.1 million this year, has seen four of his past five seasons cut short by injury. Carr, whose 2012 salary was $3 million, was injured soon after signing four-year, $14 million deal (included $3.8 million signing bonus) this summer and never regained his starting spot.

What's next for the Steelers and Ravens?

The next to go in Pittsburgh is likely inside linebacker James Farrior, one of the top leaders on the Steelers defense. His agent indicated that the "percentages" aren't with the Steelers keeping Farrior. "He wanted to retire a PS [Pittsburgh Steeler] but he is healthy and ready [and] wants to play," agent Ralph Cindrich posted on Twitter. Farrior, 37, is scheduled to make $2.8 million in 2012, the final year of his deal.

The next to go in Baltimore is expected to be cornerback Domonique Foxworth, who has only played two games the past two seasons. The knee injury that put him on injured reserve the past two years could force him to retire at the age of 28. Foxworth declined to talk about the knee last month. Asked if it could stop him from ever playing again, he said, "That's a tough question." Foxworth, who is scheduled to make $5.6 million in 2012, could seek an injury settlement.
The AFC North is running a series where every position will be ranked and what could change at that position.


1. STEELERS: Pittsburgh had the top-ranked pass defense, and it wasn't all about the pass rush this time. Actually, the pass rush was extremely inconsistent this season, so that No. 1 ranking is more of a reflection of the Steelers' secondary. Cornerback Ike Taylor and free safety Ryan Clark had career years. Taylor's season, though, was marred by a late-season decline that ended with him getting stiffed-armed by the Broncos' Demaryius Thomas on the touchdown that ended the Steelers' season. Clark had the best season of any safety in the division, which is saying a lot when Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed are in the AFC North. He finished second in the division with 100 tackles. Polamalu was solid, but didn't play up to his usual spectacular level. William Gay was a pleasant surprise, taking back the starting cornerback job that he lost in 2010. What could change: Gay is an unrestricted free agent, but it shouldn't take much to retain him. Look for rookie cornerbacks Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown to make more of an impact in their second seasons.

2. RAVENS: This group exceeded expectations, and did so in a surprising manner. Instead of starting Domonique Foxworth and Chris Carr at cornerback, the Ravens finished fourth in pass defense with Lardarius Webb and Cary Williams. Webb was the division's top cornerback, recording five interceptions and breaking up 20 passes (and that doesn't include three interceptions in the playoffs). Williams was a physical presence at corner. The biggest disappointment was Reed, who intercepted three passes -- his fewest in a season where he played more than 12 games. The Ravens' other safety, hard-hitting Bernard Pollard, provided more of an impact than Reed. First-round pick Jimmy Smith endured an up-and-down rookie season. What could change: Smith should take over for Williams as a starting cornerback this season. Foxworth is expected to get cut, and the same could happen to Carr. Both backup safeties, Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura, are free agents, but I suspect Nakamura will get re-signed.

3. BROWNS: Joe Haden showed signs of being a shutdown corner, even though he failed to make an interception. He held his own against some of the best receivers in the NFL, from Larry Fitzgerald to Brandon Marshall. His worst games came against Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green. While Haden is among the division's best cornerbacks, Sheldon Brown was the worst starting corner in the AFC North. Brown's biggest asset is the experience he provides to a young secondary. The defensive backfield was hurt by the loss of strong safety T.J. Ward, who missed the final 10 games with a foot injury. Teams took advantage of Ward's replacement, Usama Young. Free safety Mike Adams beat out Young for a starting job in training camp. Dimitri Patterson was a reliable nickelback, breaking up a dozen passes. What could change: The Browns might replace Adams, who is a free agent, and they could give rookie seventh-round pick Eric Hagg a shot at doing so. Cleveland is very interested in bringing Patterson back. It wouldn't be a surprise if Patterson starts in place of Brown.
4. BENGALS: Leon Hall is perhaps the most valuable cornerback in the division. In the first nine games with Hall, the Bengals gave up eight touchdown passes. In the last seven regular-season games without him (he had a season-ending Achilles injury), they allowed 12 touchdown passes. The Bengals replaced Hall with Adam Jones, who was extremely erratic in coverage. The Bengals value the veteran leadership of Nate Clements, but the cornerback is looking past his prime. Only nickelback Kelly Jennings struggled on a more consistent basis. Safety Reggie Nelson allowed some big plays early, but he was stingy in pass defense late in the season. The other safety, Chris Crocker, had trouble covering the more athletic tight ends in the league. What could change: The Bengals need to draft a cornerback in the first round to press Clements for a starting role and become his eventual replacement. Nelson is a free agent, but he is considered a priority to get re-signed. The Bengals are expected to part ways with Jones, who is a free agent.

Feb. 20: Special teams

Feb. 21: Defensive line

Feb. 23: Linebackers

For Monday: Offensive line

Ray LewisPatrick Smith/Getty ImagesRay Lewis and the Ravens' defense limited the Jets to only seven first downs and 150 yards of offense.
BALTIMORE -- The scariest part about the Baltimore Ravens' defense is that it doesn't fear anything.

The Ravens aren't afraid of blitzing on every play. They're not afraid of sending a safety or a nickel back after the quarterback. They're not afraid of leaving a cornerback one-on-one with a receiver.

After a couple of years of playing it safe, the Baltimore defense showed a national television audience and its former boss that the Ravens haven't just dusted off their old, aggressive game plan. They've expanded it.

Three defensive touchdowns in the Ravens' 34-17 victory over the New York Jets at M&T Bank Stadium came as the result of relentless pressure. Past Ravens defenses prided themselves on leading the NFL in fewest yards given up or setting the record for fewest points allowed.

This Ravens defense wants turnovers, and they want to turn them into touchdowns. Baltimore's defense outscored the Jets' offense 21-3. Actually, Baltimore's defense outscored its own offense.

So, how great can this Ravens defense become?

"We can be special," Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "It all depends on where we go from here."

Defenses in Baltimore are defined by championships, which means there is a ways to go before you can rank this group. All you can say is that Baltimore is on the right path.

The Ravens are relentless and it started with the defense's first snap. Baltimore safety Ed Reed came unblocked and stripped Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez from the blind side, which led to Jameel McClain's 6-yard fumble return for a touchdown.

In the second quarter, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata crashed into Sanchez's back, forcing the ball loose and leading to a 26-yard fumble return by Jarret Johnson. In the third quarter, Suggs' pressure caused Sanchez to hurry a throw to the outside, where cornerback Lardarius Webb jumped in front of Santonio Holmes and ran back the interception 73 yards for a touchdown.

"It reminded me of the 2000 and 2006 defenses," said Jets coach Rex Ryan, who was on the Ravens' staff for both of those defenses. "They were coming after us."

This defense, though, accomplished something the the defenses in 2000 (which set the NFL record for fewest points) and 2006 (which is the only Ravens defense that finished No. 1 in a season) never did -- score three touchdowns in one game.

It didn't matter that the special teams allowed a 107-yard kickoff return or quarterback Joe Flacco had an interception returned for a score. What made the Baltimore defense's effort amazing was how it carried the team.

In 2000, the Ravens' defense remained strong through a five-game touchdown drought. On Sunday night, the defense didn't bend despite a 35 1/2-minute drought for Flacco, who didn't complete a pass in the second or third quarters.

With the Ravens holding a 28-17 lead in the third quarter, Flacco fumbled to give the ball to the Jets at the Baltimore 27-yard line. On the next play, Webb once again showed there was no panic on defense when he delivered his interception return for a touchdown.

[+] EnlargeMark Sanchez
Mitch Stringer/US PresswireThe Ravens were able to pressure Mark Sanchez all night and forced the Jets to cough up three fumbles.
"Any defense that can create turnovers and score touchdowns is pretty much unstoppable," Ngata said.

This is a drastically different look from last season, when the Ravens had a more conservative approach under defensive coordinator Greg Mattison. They didn't give up many points (third-fewest in the NFL). But they didn't put much pressure on the quarterback (the 27 sacks were a franchise low).

When Mattison left to become the defensive coordinator at the University of Michigan, Baltimore promoted secondary coach Chuck Pagano, who said the Ravens would "wreak havoc" in his first news conference.

He has lived up to those words, especially against the Jets. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Ravens blitzed at least one defensive back on 13 of Sanchez's 38 dropbacks. Only twice this season had a quarterback taken more snaps against blitzing defensive backs (Jay Cutler and Sam Bradford, both in Week 2).

Those blitzes resulted in nearly as many turnovers (two) as completions (three).

"He's not afraid of anything," linebacker Ray Lewis said of Pagano.

The real fear must be for quarterbacks when they watch the Ravens' defense get announced before the game. You get the sense that's what pitchers must have felt when they went against the Yankees' Murderers' Row in 1927. Out of the Ravens' tunnel comes Ngata. Then Suggs. Then Reed. And of course, Lewis.

What must quarterbacks think when they watch film of the Ravens hammering Sanchez, Ben Roethlisberger and Bradford?

"Get the ball out quick or you’re going to get hit," Suggs said with a laugh.

But quarterbacks aren't getting the ball out quickly enough. Last week in St. Louis, Baltimore recorded 11 quarterback hits. On Sunday night, there were 10 quarterback hits which were delivered by seven players.

The performance was more special because it was against Ryan, the Ravens' defensive coordinator from 2005 to 2008.

"He created us," Johnson said, "now he had to deal with us."

Baltimore's defense could become stronger after this week's bye with the return of two injured cornerbacks, rookie first-round pick Jimmy Smith and veteran Chris Carr.

"I do sense something special with this defense and with this team," Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh said. "I think there’s a spirit in this team that’s hard to describe and I wish I could put it into words for you. I saw it the first day the guys came back. We’ll see where it takes us."

Note: Harbaugh handed out game balls to Pagano; O.J. Brigance, the team's director of of player development who celebrated his birthday last week while still battling ALS; and Pat Modell, the wife of former majority owner Art Modell. Pat Modell is seriously ill.


Roster Advisor