Ravens are wary of Ware

December 17, 2008

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) -- There are at least 19 reasons why the Baltimore Ravens' offensive line has cause for concern heading into Saturday night's pivotal game at the Dallas Cowboys.

The number reflects Cowboys Pro Bowl linebacker DeMarcus Ware's sack total this year, the most in the NFL since Michael Strahan established the record with 22 1/2 seven years ago. Ware has already tied Mark Gastineau (New York Jets, 1983), Bruce Smith (Buffalo Bills, 1990) and Clyde Simmons (Philadelphia Eagles, 1992) for eighth-most sacks in a season in league history.

One week removed from stonewalling Pittsburgh Steelers Pro Bowl outside linebacker James Harrison as he was held to no sacks in the Ravens' 13-9 loss, the offensive line faces arguably its toughest challenge yet against the 6-foot-4, 257-pound Ware. Ware has a deadly quick first step to go with the acceleration, power and array of moves that make up his pass-rushing repertoire.


"He's quick, agile, a little taller than James Harrison, who's a little stouter and more compact, where DeMarcus is almost what you would consider a bigger defensive end," Ravens offensive tackle Adam Terry said. "He's a heck of a pass rusher, a really good technician."

The Ravens have allowed just 25 sacks this season, but Dallas leads the league with 53 sacks. And Ware has been the centerpiece of that constant harassment of quarterbacks with five more sacks than last year's total of 14, when he set a franchise record for sacks by a linebacker.

"He's relentless," Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said of Ware during a conference call with Baltimore reporters. "He's a great athlete certainly, but he goes hard every play. I think the thing that sets him apart is that he's not a pass rusher only. He plays the run very well. He's a complete player and he's a special pass rusher."

The Ravens will have a real challenge trying to protect rookie quarterback Joe Flacco, who was sacked twice, intercepted twice and fumbled once against the Steelers' top-ranked defense. Both the Cowboys and Steelers are skilled practitioners of the 3-4 defensive alignment.

"I don't know if it's tougher than what we saw last week pass rush wise, but it's every bit as tough," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "The Cowboys have one of the best pass rushes in football. It's a little bit different type of scheme, same basic front, though, same type of talent, and that's going to be a big priority for us. If we can protect the quarterback, then we'll have a chance to throw the ball."

The Cowboys had eight sacks in a win over the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants last week as Ware got Eli Manning three times. It has been five games since the Cowboys have allowed a 100-yard rusher, with just one touchdown allowed over the last three games and four consecutive games with at least four sacks.

Besides Ware's banner season, defensive end Greg Ellis (seven sacks), nose guard Jay Ratliff (seven sacks) and linebacker Bradie James (six sacks) have all had their moments penetrating the line of scrimmage.

"We've got our work cut out for us," center Jason Brown said. "It's a challenge but, as an offensive line, we look forward to the challenge."

Ravens tackle Jared Gaither, who has battled through a painful sprained shoulder to excel in his first year as Jonathan Ogden's replacement, will likely draw the assignment of blocking Ware the majority of the time.

The Ravens also run unbalanced lines with tackles Terry, Gaither and Willie Anderson all lining up at the same time.

"Ware's a great player," said Gaither, who didn't practice Wednesday due to the flu. "I'm looking forward to playing against him."

The Herald-Mail Articles