The Ravens defense isn't used to being ranked 27th in the NFL.
But that's where they stand after giving up an average of 404 yards per game. After two games, the performance has shown defensive tackle Haloti Ngata that this defensive unit is far from a polished product.
“We're just trying to get used to each other,” Ngata said. “It definitely is a work in progress. Once we continue to gel more, I think we'll seem more dominant."
The most glaring issue this past Sunday against the Eagles was tight end Brent Celek picking apart the Ravens zone to the tune of 157 receiving yards. Cornerback Cary Williams admitted the Ravens weren't thinking Celek would be targeted as much as he was.
“They came out with a great gameplan,” Williams said. “I think Celek was the X-factor. We didn't expect Celek to do what he did. Our hats have to go off to those guys.”
Another interesting tidbit with this defense is that Cincinnati and Philadelphia have both tried to soften Baltimore's defense with the running game. In years past, teams conceded the run against the Ravens due to their stout front seven. But with Terrell Suggs (Achilles) out of the starting lineup and three younger players working in at outside linebacker (Albert McClellan, Courtney Upshaw, Paul Kruger), the Bengals and Eagles both saw opportunities to run the ball.
Bengals RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran for 91 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Eagles RB LeSean McCoy totaled 81 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries. The yards per carry average isn't too bad defensively speaking, but it's forcing Baltimore to be mindful of the run.
“We are not used to having teams try to run on us as much, and a lot of it starts up front,” Ngata said. “So if we can stop that run early and just try to pressure the quarterback better, I think our defense can be more dominant.”
Rice backs play-calling: After watching the film from Baltimore's 24-23 loss against Philadelphia, RB Ray Rice said the pass plays called on third-and-short were the right calls for the situations.
“The time when Dennis Pitta was open in the flat, if we complete that pass -- or at the end of the game, if we complete those throws -- we're not having this discussion,” Rice said. “I just think that the calls that we have are great.”
Kruger's back injury lingering: OLB Paul Kruger said his injured back is something that's been slow to heal, even though he expected to play last Sunday against Philadelphia. Instead, Kruger was inactive for the game.
“It's just been a bad progression over the last couple of weeks,” Kruger said. “It gets worse at certain times. It's something I'm fighting through.”
Kruger, who said he's never had a history of back problems, was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday and is hopeful to return to the lineup this Sunday night against New England.
“I'm just excited to get out there this week,” Kruger said. “Big game for us. I'm doing everything I can to get healthy. It's killing me not to be out there every day. I'm doing everything I can.”
Injury report -- Out of practice: LB Jameel McClain (knee), DE Pernell McPhee (knee), S Bernard Pollard (chest), OL Jah Reid (calf) and CB Lardarius Webb (knee) did not participate in practice on Wednesday. Limited: OLB Paul Kruger (back) and LT Michael Oher (ankle).