FINKSBURG – Regardless of the state or style of their opponents’ offense, the Baltimore Ravens’ defensive agenda doesn’t change much.
They want to stonewall the running game, and force them to become a one-dimensional attack.
That includes the New York Jets’ running back tandem of Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson heading into Sunday night’s game at M&T Bank Stadium.
“We’ve got to stop that run first,” All-Pro defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said Tuesday during an NFL Play 60 event at Sandy Mount Elementary. “They have two great running backs there. If we can stop them early, we can get to Mark Sanchez and disrupt them in the passing game.”
However, the Jets’ running game isn’t nearly as formidable as it was a year ago when Tomlinson rushed for 914 yards as Greene gained 766 yards.
The Jets have slid to 25th in rushing, averaging 82 yards on the ground per contest as Greene has gained just 134 yards on 41 carries for a 3.3 average per rush.
And Tomlinson has rushed for only 62 yards on 17 carries, but ranks second on the team in receptions with 12 catches for 196 yards.
Traditionally, though, Greene provides a bruising presence while Tomlinson is a true all-purpose back.
“They have two different styles,” Ngata said. “We have to recognize who’s back there and get them down as fast as we can.”
The Ravens rank sixth in the NFL in rushing defense, allowing just 84 yards per game.
Part of that success is accounting for what kind of runners they’re squaring off against.
“Every week, it’s a two-headed dragon in the opposing backfield,” defensive end Cory Redding said. “There’s always one who’s powerful, and one with speed. You have to adjust and play even harder.”
The Jets’ running game has been affected by the absence of Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold due to a high-ankle sprain.
Mangold is a question mark for this week after being sidelined for the Jets’ loss to the Oakland Raiders.
“He’s definitely their leader on the line,” Ngata said. “He slides them the right way usually and gives them the right protection for different blitzes. I think it might be tough for him. That’s one of the reasons why Oakland was able to get to their backfield more often.”
The Ravens began last season by containing the Jets’ running backs during a 10-9 victory in the Meadowlands.
During that game, Tomlinson rushed for 62 yards on 11 carries and Greene gained just 18 yards on five carries.
“It’s a physical game,” Ngata said. “Last year, it was a physical, low-scoring game. Hopefully, we can come out with a win again.