The Ravens made improving their pass rush a priority this offseason.
They brought in new personnel, signing defensive end Cory Redding and using their first draft pick on outside linebacker Sergio Kindle.
(We obviously know that Kindle won't be seeing the field this year, but the attempt to get a younger and more athletic pass rusher was made.)
They made the extra effort in practice, focusing on getting to the quarterback throughout OTAs and minicamps, and holding more one-on-one drills between offensive linemen and members of the defensive front seven during training camp.
So far through three games, though, the results have been somewhat mixed.
The Ravens have posted five sacks, tied for the 18th most in the NFL, and have averaged a little over four quarterback hits per game. They haven't been terrible up front, but they sure haven't been making quarterbacks nervous in the pocket either.
"We always want more production," head coach John Harbaugh said when asked for his assessment of the pass rush yesterday. "I think if you watch the one-on-one battles, guys are getting good pass-rush [pressure]. We're getting good push. A lot of times we bull-rush linemen right into the quarterback's lap. Other times, we gun inside a little bit, and Seneca [Wallace] got outside on us.
"So, there are things to work on. We want more sacks, we want more pressures, we want more quarterback hits. We're going to keep working for that."
So far, it appears that defensive coordinator Greg Mattison has mostly been relying on his front-four to provide most of the pressure on passing downs, and he's been dropping his linebackers and safeties into coverage. This was Mattison's tactic at the start of the 2009 season, as well, playing base sets and limiting his blitzes to key spots.
Going forward, the Ravens might need to get a little more aggressive with who they bring to the quarterback. They obviously don't want to leave their defensive backs out to dry (that could cause some problems), but bringing more than just four or five will keep opposing quarterbacks on their toes.
The perfect time to tee off could be this Sunday when the Ravens face a Steelers team that will either line up Charlie Batch or Byron Leftwich at quarterback. Both are experienced, but haven't played much recently, combining for just five starts in the last three years.