Friday, November 19, 1999
Ravens Scouting Report
Offense struggling, but defense solid
QUARTERBACK: Before Tony Banks generated 41 points against the Browns two weeks ago, the Ravens had scored just 95. But in his other two starts, he's been able to find just 13 points as he struggles with pedestrian receivers. Banks has a terrific arm, but is trying to overcome thoroughly mediocre career stats of 38 touchdown passes, 43 interceptions and a 15-31 starting record.
RUNNING BACK: Whatever happened to Priest Holmes? As a rookie last season, he rushed for 400 yards against the Bengals in two games. Hampered by a sprained knee, he doesn't even have a 100 this year and has played in just three games as Erric Rhett has assumed the starting job.
Rhett, the erstwhile Tampa Bay Buccaneer, is third in AFC rushing with four 100-yard games. He's a powerful between-the-tackles runner averaging 4.1 yards per carry. Fullback Chuck Evans has a bruised triceps, putting his consecutive game streak of 78 in jeopardy.
RECEIVERS: They call these guys the $400,000 Club because they're castoffs making close to the NFL minimum salary. During the offseason, the Ravens failed to deal for such top receivers as the Bengals' Carl Pickens and are paying the price with a group averaging just 11.1 yards per catch.
Jermaine Lewis is catching only flak from first-year coach Brian Billick for failure to learn the system. Patrick Johnson has been the lone speed threat, but the second-round pick from last season has just six catches.
OFFENSIVE LINE: They're banged up but still formidable with two-time Pro Bowler Jonathan Ogden at left tackle. He appears to be recovered from last month's neck sprain, but right tackle Harry Swayne (broken foot) has been lost for the season since Nov.7.
The revamped line isn't as physical and struggled against the Jaguars last week, but who doesn't? Offseason foresight has helped. Everett Lindsay, picked up in a trade from Minnesota where he started 18 games, moved from left guard to right tackle. Rookie Edwin Mulitalo held up in his first NFL start last week at left guard against one of the NFL's top lines.
DEFENSIVE LINE: You thought Seattle and Jacksonville had tough front fours? The Ravens go four deep at tackle, end Michael McCrary leads the NFL with 40 sacks in the last 47 games, and the oldest Brown-Raven, end Rob Burnett, may be having the best of his 10 seasons with three sacks, seven passes defensed and the third-most tackles on the team. McCrary has five sacks despite consistent double teams and managed a sack last week against Pro Bowler Tony Boselli.
Tony Siragusa, the 350-pound tackle who has tortured the Bengals in his 10 seasons: With the money they're paying fat defensive tackles like me, they're going to have to throw me out of the league.
LINEBACKERS: The Pro Bowl is just a place where these guys have reunions. This corps is the heart of a defense tied with Jacksonville for first in the NFL, allowing two touchdowns in last three games.
Pro Bowler Ray Lewis roams sideline-to-sideline at middle backer and his 127 tackles lead the NFL. Strong-side linebacker Peter Boulware is headed to another Pro Bowl with eight sacks, 28 in 41 career games. Speedy Jamie Sharper, the weak-side linebacker, takes advantage of the line's two-gap scheme and flies uncovered in the face of the foes' running game with 80 tackles, second-most on the club. University of Cincinnati's Brad Jackson backs up Lewis on passing downs.
SECONDARY: At 34, Rod Woodson has made the transition from cornerback to free safety, giving him a better chance to add to his total of seven career interceptions against the Bengals, the team he's picked off the most on his way to 49. He's been a sage counselor to No.1 pick Chris McAlister, the left corner who apparently doesn't make the same mistake twice. The 6-foot-1, 206-pound McAlister is a challenging foe for the Bengals' big receivers.
Duane Starks, another No.1 pick, is playing better in the nickel package instead of as a starter and has two interceptions in the last three games. DeRon Jenkins has moved in as the starter at right corner but has been vulnerable when he moves into the slot on passing downs, where word is he tends to play soft. Still, foes have thrown for just 10 touchdowns in nine games.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Punter Kyle Richardson leads the NFL with 26 punts inside the 20. Kicker Matt Stover has scored 113 points against the Bengals, but Billick hasn't been happy with his length and decided not to try a 52-yard field goal in the 6-3 loss to the Jags. Stover is 1-of-4 from 50 yards and beyond. The Ravens have been unable to unleash the dangerous Lewis on punts, where his 7.2-yard per return is nearly two yards fewer than Bengals returner Damon Griffin.
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