BEREA — Quarterback Seneca Wallace has never played the Baltimore Ravens. He knows what he’s been missing, and what could be staring him in the face Sunday.
“They’re a very physical defense, they create a lot of turnovers, they’ve always been that way,” he said Wednesday. “They’re a very talented defense.”
Wallace worked with the first-team offense again Wednesday, as preparations began for the Ravens and Jake Delhomme remained out with an ankle injury. Delhomme was injured in the opener Sept. 12 and hasn’t practiced since. Coach Eric Mangini wouldn’t put a percentage on the likelihood that he’ll be able to play Sunday in Baltimore.
“It gets better each day,” Mangini said. “He’s doing everything he possibly can. He’s here first thing in the morning, here late at night.
“I feel really comfortable with his ability to take the information with or without reps and be able to execute it. I’m optimistic, I think we are obviously further ahead than where we were. I was optimistic last week, we’ll just have to see how it goes.”
Delhomme, who wasn’t available to the media, threw for a career-high 365 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in a 23-21 Carolina win against Baltimore in 2006.
Those numbers are rare against the Ravens, and four years is a long time to go without seeing their unique variety of blitzes and coverages.
Carson Palmer and Ben Roethlisberger have seen the Baltimore defense twice a season for years, but each time it’s a struggle. The Ravens have allowed the fewest points per game (17.0), created the most turnovers (339) and allowed the lowest quarterback rating (70.2) since 2000.
“They’ve got a lot of really talented guys that play hard,” Mangini said.
The Ravens are 1-1, but the defense hasn’t been the problem. It hasn’t allowed a touchdown, is second in total defense (214.5 yards a game), 13th against the rush (105), second against the pass (109.5) and first in third-down conversions (13.8 percent).
The timing of the matchup couldn’t be much worse for the Browns offense, which has used two quarterbacks in two weeks, hasn’t scored in either second half and has five turnovers. Ray Lewis and the Ravens will be looking to add to the 11 straight games against the Browns with at least one interception. They have 18 picks over that span.
“You still got to be aggressive but you got to be smart at the same time,” said Wallace, who spent his first seven years in Seattle. “You can’t be complacent and not try to go up top and take a shot on ’em. They’re a defense sometimes that can give up big plays. We still got to be aggressive and do what we do on offense.”
If it’s Wallace who gets the call, it’ll be interesting to see if he uses the athleticism that makes him such an intriguing option. He scrambled once for 4 yards, had one unsuccessful scramble negated by a penalty and was sacked once for 3 yards in the loss Sunday to the Chiefs. He completed a pass to Brian Robiskie after a scramble to his right, but didn’t leave the pocket much.
“Rolling out, staying in the pocket, it doesn’t matter,” said Wallace, who went 16-for-31 for 229 yards, a touchdown, an interception and a 73.2 rating. “Whatever I have to do to complete the ball I’m going to do that.
“We have a few (designed rollouts) that we have in our offense, but we didn’t dial ’em up as much last week and so we’ll see what happens this week. There are certain times when you want to try to move (the quarterback) around and try to move the pocket a little bit and set up different throwing points. It’s not something that just happens on game day, you got to work it in practice.”
Mangini said Wallace doesn’t need to be on the move to be accurate or effective, and noted that Wallace’s scrambling is more dramatic because he goes wider than the typical pocket passer.
“Even when he’s in the pocket, he’s been accurate because he’s decisive with throwing the ball and he’s accurate as a passer,” Mangini said.
The Ravens are without Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed (hip) and their secondary is the perceived weakness of the defense. But you can’t beat them deep if you don’t have time to throw, and the Ravens excel at confusing quarterbacks and offensive lines with their pressures.
Wallace hasn’t seen their stunts, shifts and overloads up close, but his line has. The starting five was together most of last year, left tackle Joe Thomas has played the Ravens twice a year for three years and left guard Eric Steinbach has been in the AFC North for all seven of his seasons.
“We can do as much as we can to help the quarterback, but if the offense is going to have success it’s going to be everyone being on that same page,” Steinbach said. “It would help if the quarterbacks played ’em twice a year, but we’re not fortunate with that right now. But these guys have been in the league long enough, both of them have.”
Wallace said the line’s experience is a plus, but he’s got to be on top of his game and in tune with the line when it comes to picking up the blitzes. He said the start against the Chiefs will help him be more comfortable if called upon Sunday.
“You get another week under your belt, you kind of get into the groove of things and how a regular work week is,” he said. “So it helps a lot going into your second week as a starter.”
Against the Ravens, he’s going to need as much help as he can get.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.