Backfield puts Ravens into off-field motion Running game gets team's critical eye

August 05, 1996|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

Within 24 hours of the Ravens' first exhibition win, coach Ted Marchibroda was back at training camp headquarters working on the team's most glaring offensive weakness.

"I think overall you have to be pleased with our effort, the ability to pass the ball and play some outstanding defense," said Marchibroda. "But I was a little disappointed in the running game, or lack of it."

It was one of the few things missing on a special night for the city, as a crowd of 63,804, the largest at an NFL game in Baltimore, watched the Ravens defeat the Philadelphia Eagles, 17-9, at Memorial Stadium.

It was the first time the fans got an on-the-field look at some of their possible new sports heroes. Quarterback Vinny Testaverde was impressive in the opening two quarters Saturday, completing 11 of 14 passes for 152 yards and one touchdown. Wide receiver Michael Jackson also put on a show with four receptions for 83 yards.

Rookie middle linebacker Ray Lewis rated high on Marchibroda's scorecard with seven tackles, and the defense also had two goal-line stands. The hometown crowd even received a special treat when rookie wide receiver Jermaine Lewis, from the University of Maryland, returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown with 2: 08 left in the game to secure the win.

But now the emotion had subsided from the first NFL game played in this city involving a Baltimore team in 13 years, and Marchibroda was dealing with reality.

Nothing harsh.

"The line didn't get it done," said Marchibroda, whose team finished with only 44 yards rushing, 25 in the first half with the starters. "There wasn't a lot of opportunity for the runners to make any yardage.

"But we're not overly concerned at this point," said Marchibroda. "We're not going to do anything drastic; it's only the first game. We've got a bunch of big, physical guys up front. In the final analysis, we'll run the football. We will run the football."

Marchibroda said the lack of a running game can be attributed to a number of factors, but the Ravens weren't overmatched physically, even though rookie left guard Jonathan Ogden seemed to struggle at times.

The Ravens went into the game wanting to run, and the Eagles came in prepared to stop it. Philadelphia brought its safeties in close, and kept eight players near the line of scrimmage early.

The Ravens did not change their game plan, which is not unusual in the first preseason game.

"Every team goes into the first game trying to establish the run," said Marchibroda. "Sometimes we just made mistakes, and sometimes they just had the right defense for what we were running.

"But if it was later in the season and they played the eight-man front, we probably would have thrown more on first down, or done other things to back them off the line of scrimmage a little."

The Ravens' running game also may have suffered because the team is experimenting with one-back vs. two-back sets.

The Ravens were going to use the one-back set when training camp opened July 19, but the plans changed when the team signed 6-foot-2, 240-pound fullback Carwell Gardner a day later.

Gardner missed some practice time with a groin injury, and the team hasn't practiced as much in the two-back formation as it would have liked.

It will be interesting to see which one Marchibroda uses the most. The one-back seems to be ideal, because the Ravens are loaded with receivers such as Jackson, Derrick Alexander, Calvin Williams and Floyd Turner.

The formation also would take some pressure off the Ravens' questionable running back situation and linemen, because it's a spread formation.

But Gardner gives the team the ability to play power football with an offensive line that averages 308.6 pounds. A lot of the pressure, though, shifts back to the running backs.

"I don't see any problems, just options that other teams have to find solutions for when they prepare for us," said Marchibroda. tTC "We want to be diversified, but at the same time find the offense that best utilizes our personnel. We have a great line and some really talented runners. We'll be OK."

NOTES: Marchibroda gave the players off yesterday. The players don't have to report until today's 2: 40 p.m. practice. . . . Jermaine Lewis has a hip injury, but nothing serious, according to team officials.

Ravens preseason

Saturday

Opponent: New York Giants

Time: 1 p.m.

Site: Giants Stadium

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)

Schedule

Date .. .. ..Opponent .. .. .. .Time

Aug. 17 .. ..Green Bay .. .. .7 p.m.

Aug. 23 .. ..at Buffalo ...7:30 p.m.

Ravens roll call

Dexter Daniels

Pos.: Linebacker

Height: 6-1

Weight: 241

Age: 22

College: Florida

Year: Rookie

How acquired: Sixth-round draft pick, 1996

Highlights: Was named to All-Southeastern Conference first team as a senior and second team as a junior. Had 12 tackles in Gators' loss to Nebraska in Fiesta Bowl. Finished career with 283 tackles and three interceptions in 50 games at Florida.

Personal: Named All-American and National Prep Defensive Player of the Year by USA Today while at Valdosta (Ga.) High.

Valdosta was 37-1-1 in Daniels' three seasons.

Pub Date: 8/05/96

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