Lions offense seeks improvement against Ravens

In his first game as defensive coordinator of the Baltimore

Ravens, Dean Pees watched Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan

follow the opening kickoff with five straight completions for 71

yards and a touchdown.

Not exactly what Pees was looking for from a unit that has

exuded excellence for well over a decade.

Sure, it was only a preseason game and middle linebacker Ray

Lewis didn’t play. But Pees would probably have been just as ticked

off if it happened in a scrimmage on the practice field.

”We need to get off to a fast start. That’s the thing that

disappointed us,” Pees said this week. ”We got off to a slow

start, and we don’t want to let anybody ever drive the ball on us,

let alone go down and score on the first possession. That’s

certainly not a way you want to start the game.”

The revamped Ravens’ defense will attempt to improve that

shortcoming Friday night against the Detroit Lions (No. 11 tie in

the AP Pro32), whose first-team offense sputtered last Friday in

the preseason opener against the Cleveland Browns.

On its opening series, the Lions went three-and-out. Matthew

Stafford threw an interception to end the second possession. After

seven plays and a punt on the third series, Stafford and the rest

of the first unit took a seat to try to figure out what went

wrong.

Against the Ravens (No. 5), Detroit has a second chance to make

things right.

”Hopefully, we play a lot better. We need to play a lot

better,” coach Jim Schwartz said. ”We need to play with a little

more sense of urgency.”

Even if the final outcome doesn’t mean a darn thing.

”When you face a force like the Ravens, it’s exciting if you

have an ounce of competitive nature,” said Lions wide receiver

Nate Burleson, who was held without a catch against Cleveland.

”You have to say, this game doesn’t count, but we’re still trying

to score and we’re preparing for it as if it is a real game. The

Ravens are going to try to bang us and try to force fumbles and

interceptions. I think this preseason game will have a

regular-season type atmosphere.”

Much has changed for the Baltimore defense since the AFC

championship game. The unit has a new leader in Pees, who takes

over Chuck Pagano, now head coach of the Colts. The Ravens are also

trying to fill holes created by an injury to standout linebacker

Terrell Suggs and the departure of free agents Cory Redding and

Jarret Johnson.

At this juncture, the defense is a work in progress. The biggest

priority is finding someone who can help with a pass rush that will

sorely miss Suggs and Redding, who combined for 18 1/2 sacks in

2011.

”You never like to lose guys, but the nature of this business

is guys are going to come and guys are going to go,” defensive

line coach Clarence Brooks said. ”You just kind of have to look at

what you have and say, `OK, let’s move on. Where do we go from

here? How are we going to do this?’ Luckily enough, we have some

good, young bodies around here that we feel will come along well.

It’s not a concern; it’s more of kind of figuring out how the

pieces are going to fit in the puzzle after they’re gone.”

The Ravens are intent upon stuffing Stafford and the Detroit

offense. Burleson and the Lions have no intention of letting that

happen.

”We want to score early and often,” Burleson said. ”We don’t

want to sound cocky, but our standard is that we expect to score

every time we have the ball. For us not to score against Cleveland,

it kind of burned a little bit. It took us some time to calm down

and get ready for our next opportunity.”

Baltimore’s offensive line is under construction. Veteran guard

Bobbie Williams is trying to find a comfort zone among his new

teammates and tackle Bryant McKinnie is working his way back into

the mix after reporting late. Backup Jah Reid returned this week

after missing time with a strained right calf.

The Ravens will be tested by a Detroit defense working on

building a reputation.

”They are just a real physical, talented football team,”

Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said. ”It’s going to be a big

challenge for us. I’m pretty sure, knowing that team’s personality,

they are going to try to come in here and make a statement, even

though it’s a preseason. Our guys will understand that.”

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