Ravens' Offense Faces Big challenge.(SPORTS)
Byline: Ken Wright, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
OWINGS MILLS, Md. - No one needs to remind Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick what his young team faces today against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in its home opener at Ravens Stadium.
"This is maybe the most talented team in the NFC in my opinion," Billick said. "You're looking at a Pro Bowler at every single skill position offensively. You're looking at four first-round draft choices on that defensive line. That defense, in particular, is a defense that they have drafted and attacked in free agency over a period of time. This is the same defense they've been running quite a while."
And the numbers seem to back up Billick's claim. Over the past three seasons, the Buccaneers' defensive line has racked up 112 sacks. Tackle Warren Sapp, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, rising star nose tackle Anthony McFarland, end Simeon Rice (11 sacks and 64 tackles in 2001) and left end Greg Spires could make it a long day for the Ravens offensive line.
Sapp has demonstrated he can be a one-man wrecking crew, but don't forget five-time Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Brooks and four-time Pro Bowl strong safety John Lynch. It is a star-studded defensive cast, but Brooks and Lynch make a good number of the big defensive plays.
Last season, in the Buccaneers' 22-10 win over the Ravens, Brooks totaled 20 tackles, two passes defensed, and an interception that he returned 53 yards to the Ravens 1 to set up the Buccaneers' lone touchdown.
The Ravens' offense is a work-in-progress, but must always account for Brooks and Lynch, whom the Buccaneers blitz often. It will be up to Ravens quarterback Chris Redman to make the right reads and avoid the onslaught of the Tampa Bay duo.
"They are pretty much the total package when it comes to defense," said Redman, who made a strong debut last week when he completed 20 of 34 passes for 218 yards and a touchdown in a 10-7 loss to Carolina. "They'll bring one safety [Lynch] up and play eight guys in the box, and when they have that one safety back there, we have to cash in and go deep. …