Patriots notebook

A defensive double-take

Ravens’ schemes will look familiar

By Christopher L. Gasper and Monique Walker
Globe Staff / September 30, 2009

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Excuse members of the Patriots offense if they feel like they’ve already played the Baltimore Ravens, even though the teams are meeting for the first time this season Sunday at Gillette Stadium. Technically, the Patriots haven’t faced the Ravens since 2007, but they got a dose of their defense in a 16-9 loss to the Jets and coach Rex Ryan, Baltimore’s former defensive coordinator.

The Jets’ defense held the Patriots without a touchdown for the first time since 2006 and hit quarterback Tom Brady seven times. You can bet Baltimore will be viewing the tape.

“We run the same defense,’’ said Ravens defensive end Trevor Pryce. “So you have to at least frustrate Tom Brady. You’re not going to sack him, because he’s going to get rid of the ball. But you have to at least do your best to kind of get in his face, make some of his throws go off target. But if you don’t do that, you don’t stand a chance.’’

Patriots left guard Logan Mankins said Baltimore does a lot of the same things it did when Ryan was running the defense, but has added some wrinkles. And having faced the Jets can’t hurt.

“It’s going to help,’’ said Mankins. “It darn sure can’t hurt because the Jets do so many different things and a lot of the things the Ravens do, so it’s going to help.’’

Mankins also said the Ravens’ defensive success is about a lot more than a scheme. It’s the players - such as safety Ed Reed and linebacker Ray Lewis, whom he called “two of probably the best players in the history of football at their positions,’’ as well as outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, outside linebacker Jarret Johnson and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.

That’s why Bill Belichick downplayed any possible benefit the Patriots might get from having faced a similar defense.

“Maybe a little bit, but I think the more important factor - the overriding factor - is the players and dealing with the Ravens’ players, and the talent they have on the defensive side of the ball,’’ said the Patriots coach. “That’s what really makes them a good defensive football team. They have a good scheme, but they have real good players and those players cause a lot of problems.’’

A large addition
Defensive tackle Terdell Sands brings experience and size to the Patriots, but how that will work its way into the lineup remains to be seen. Sands was signed Monday after working out for the team Friday.

Belichick said Sands, at 6 feet 7 inches and 335 pounds, has the frame to play defensive end or inside. Sands was released by the Raiders after training camp but has been in the league since 2001.

“It’s rare to see a player that’s that size, that athletic, and that long,’’ Belichick said. “I think, on paper, he has some flexibility; whether that is actually the case in our defense or not, we’ll have to wait and see.’’

The addition of Sands had nothing to do with Vince Wilfork, who sprained his left ankle against the Falcons, said Nick Caserio, the team’s director of player personnel. Caserio described the move as similar to when the Patriots brought in offensive tackle Kendall Simmons in training camp.

“I would say those two situations were similar to the standpoint of there’s a good football player who’s had some production in the league, so we felt there was an opportunity for us to add that particular player to our roster, so we went ahead and made that move,’’ said Caserio. “I would say it was separate to anything else that happened.’’

Part of the process
The Patriots worked out a group of wide receivers last week, but that doesn’t mean they’re looking to replace Joey Galloway or add depth because of the status of Wes Welker (knee injury), who has missed the last two games. “Those workouts had been scheduled ahead of time,’’ said Caserio. “I think it’s part of the process that you go through during the course of the fall; whether it’s to update your records, update the medical information, maybe the player has been out of camp a period of time, or maybe he hasn’t been in a camp, so you’re trying to get an update on what his physical conditioning level might be.’’

Elbow needs room
Even though safety/special teams ace Matthew Slater returned to action last Sunday after missing the first two games with a left elbow injury, it could be a while before he is back to returning kickoffs. Slater, who played on the punt-return and punt-coverage units against Atlanta, is still wearing a plastic brace on the elbow, which would make it a little awkward to catch kickoffs. “It would be a little difficult,’’ said Slater. “I got to get used to catching with that on. I got to get some practice time on that and then see what they decide. It might be a little while.’’

Light show
Light held his fifth annual Matt Light Celebrity Shoot-Out yesterday at Addieville East Farm in Mapleville, R.I. The charity clay-shooting event benefits the Light Foundation. Comedian Lenny Clarke and Sports Illustrated writer Peter King were among those in attendance. Several of Light’s teammates, including Mankins, Adalius Thomas, Benjamin Watson, Dan Koppen, and Chris Hanson also came out to support the event, as well as former Patriot Tedy Bruschi. Light said the goal was to raise $250,000 for the Light Foundation, which provides academic scholarships and character-building outdoor experiences for youths. “When you do an event like this, it’s all about keeping costs low and maximizing your return,’’ said Light. “We’re very diligent in that regard, but when people are here, I want them to relax and enjoy and have fun with the different things they see and do and shoot and hopefully walk away happy.’’ . . . The Ravens rank first in the NFL in rush defense (51 yards per game) and have gone 38 straight games without allowing a 100-yard rusher, dating to Dec. 10, 2006, when Chiefs running back Larry Johnson rushed for 120 yards . . . The Ravens are 0-4 all-time against the Patriots.

Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at

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