Notebook: Vikings offensive line to face Ravens' elite pass rushers
DEC 05, 2013 8:05p ET
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- When Elvis Dumervil's contract extension with the Denver Broncos was submitted too late in the infamous "Faxgate" mishap this summer, the Baltimore Ravens swooped in and added the outside linebacker, envisioning a pair of edge rushers which could return the team's defense to the fearsome unit it had been in the past.
Baltimore, which hosts the Minnesota Vikings this weekend, added a new dimension to their 3-4 defense by pairing Dumervil with Terrell Suggs. Together, they offer a big headache for Minnesota's offensive line, which has allowed 34 sacks this season, the 10th highest total in the NFL.
"I think they're a pretty loaded defense," Vikings' left tackle Matt Kalil said.
Dumervil has helped Baltimore retool its defense and move on without Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. The Ravens are tied for fifth in the NFL in sacks, with Dumervil and Suggs combining for 18.5 sacks and pressuring opponents from separate sides.
"I would say that's something we really haven't had as much here over the years, so it's been a big plus for us," Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said this week.
Minnesota has allowed 11 sacks the past two games. The Chicago Bears caused trouble for Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder early last week, sacking him on third down on the first three offensive drives for Minnesota.
Coach Leslie Frazier said Ponder didn't hold on to the ball too long; instead there were missed assignments in the blocking scheme. Frazier expressed concern with the pass protection this week.
"Any time your quarterback is getting hit, it causes problems for him where if he's not careful he's going to start getting happy feet and not going through his progressions," Frazier said. "So it's important that we protect the quarterback and keep those hits off of him. So we've got to do some things to clean that up.
"Every sack is not necessarily the offensive line's responsibility. Sometimes our tight ends are involved, sometimes our running back, sometimes our quarterback holding the ball too long and not stepping in the right direction. So there are some things that we've got to get corrected, because 11 sacks in two ballgames, that's a lot."
The Vikings are starting Matt Cassel this week at quarterback with Ponder out with a concussion. Cassel doesn't have Ponder's mobility, but he was quick in getting the ball out of his hands last week.
"We looked at it on the sidelines and made some adjustments and we were very solid the rest of the game," offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. "We've had some sacks the last couple of games, but a couple of them have been due to coverage or quarterbacks flushing out (and) not quite getting back to the line of scrimmage. We definitely want to start faster and maintain that standard we had in the second half."
Kalil was a standout immediately in his rookie season last year and only allowed two sacks all season, according to Pro Football Focus. Pro Football Focus data says Kalil has allowed four sacks already this year.
"I think people were able to study some film on him in the offseason and then he's made the adjustments and adaptations as the games go along," Musgrave said. "But we're very confident in him over there on the left side. Almost like every corner can get beat in the NFL, every left tackle is ultimately going to get beat at some point in time.
"So, I really like his attitude because when he has given up a sack or given up a hit, he hasn't got his dobber down or anything like that, or gone into the tank. He's worked that much harder to get it corrected."
Kalil knows he has his hands full with Suggs and Dumervil, but said another player on Baltimore's defense causes concern.
"The guy that stands out is (Haloti) Ngata to me because he's the kind of guy that if he doesn't want to be blocked, he's not going to be blocked," Kalil said of the Ravens' 330-pound nose tackle. "He can expose some guys. Ngata will line up at defensive end sometimes, so I'm going to have to face that big guy too. I'm looking forward to it. It's all about competing. I don't ever shy off that stuff."
Ponder still suffering from concussion: Frazier said Ponder still hasn't passed concussion testing after leaving Sunday's game right before the first half. Ponder was sandwiched between Chicago's Shea McClellin and James Anderson.
Frazier said "probably not" when asked if Ponder would have a chance to return and have any type of role in Sunday's game. Cassel will make his third start for the Vikings and first since Week 6, with Josh Freeman backing up.
Smith in line for return, Rudolph not ready: Safety Harrison Smith, on injured reserve with the designation to return, has returned to practice and is in line to return to the lineup when he's first eligible to play on Dec. 15.
"He's looked pretty good," Frazier said. "We're all anxious to see him back out here next week, as well, but so far so good."
Frazier said tight end Kyle Rudolph won't practice this week. Rudolph is out with a broken foot and the team hopes he will return this season.
"He hasn't come along as fast as we had hoped," Frazier said. "So he hasn't been able to get out on the field with his teammates. Maybe next week, but not this week."
Childs decision close: Greg Childs has returned to practice as he tries to make a year-plus return from bilateral patellar tendon tears in his knees. Minnesota will need to make a decision on Childs next week, whether they activate him off the physically unable to perform list or put him on season-ending injured reserve.
"Childs has looked pretty good," Frazier said. "He's made a lot of progress. We've been able to, this week, give him some back-to-back days. He practiced yesterday and he practiced today and hopefully he'll be able to do it tomorrow. So it's been encouraging watching his progress."
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