Ravens start to gain ground Team's progress pleases coach, VP

August 13, 1996|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

After four weeks of training camp and two preseason games, Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda and team vice president Ozzie Newsome are satisfied with the team's progress.

The Ravens open the regular season Sept. 1 against the Oakland Raiders at Memorial Stadium.

"We improved over last week and we have solidified some things," said Marchibroda, whose team is 2-0. "It is still early, but I'm happy with the overall progress.

"We've had some problems with our running game and special teams, but you have occasional breakdowns here and there. We've gotten some real good efforts."

Marchibroda saw some encouraging signs in the running game in Saturday's 37-27 win over the New York Giants, as the Ravens finished with 177 yards rushing. The team also has gotten solid play from linebackers Mike Croel, Jerrol Williams, Ray Lewis and Mike Caldwell in the first two games.

Those were the two most questionable positions going into camp. The special teams had some problems against the Giants, but Scott O'Brien, the Ravens' special teams coach, is regarded as one of the best in the NFL.

Marchibroda isn't sweating.

"We had a couple of people on those teams that didn't perform well," Marchibroda said. "We had some guys in there we were trying to get a look at. Year in and year out, Scott O'Brien produces some of the best teams in the league. I don't believe there will be a major problem."

So with two preseason games remaining, what are the Ravens' biggest problem areas?

The most glaring seems to be at right cornerback. Starter Issac Booth has given up three big plays in the past two weeks, and rookie backup DeRon Jenkins also was burned for a touchdown against the Giants.

The secondary will get its stiffest test of the season Saturday night against quarterback Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers at Memorial Stadium.

Yesterday, Marchibroda gave Booth and Jenkins total support.

"We're going with them at this point and we still have faith in those guys," Marchibroda said. "DeRon fell off a little this past week and Booth gave up some plays in the last two games, but there are no question marks about them. They are both solid players and will rebound."

The Ravens also are still in the market for a tight end. Starter Brian Kinchen has performed well in training camp and has three catches in the first two games, but Marchibroda is looking for a little more than what Kinchen can offer.

Marchibroda wants a tight end who can stretch defenses and beat linebackers or safeties one-on-one. No. 2 tight end Frank Hartley will be used more for his blocking while the team is still waiting for Harold Bishop to develop from the No. 3 position.

"We know what Brian Kinchen can do, we know what Frank Hartley can do because he had a great game blocking the other night," Marchibroda said. "We keep waiting for Harold Bishop to catch up. He has the ability to catch it. Maybe he needs one big game to get rid of some anxieties."

The Ravens are scanning the waiver wire for players, particularly a tight end. Newsome still has interest in former Denver Broncos defensive tackle James Jones and Miami running back Terry Kirby, but those deals may not happen until next week, if at all.

Newsome said the team is still in the process of evaluating players, and Marchibroda singled out reserves Herman Arvie at tackle, guard Jeff Blackshear, defensive tackle Mike Frederick, defensive end Rick Lyle and cornerback Donny Brady as having impressive efforts in the last game.

"Our running game showed great improvement during the last week," Newsome said. "I've been impressed with our ability to come back in games. Last year when we faced any kind of adversity, we would give up. But we've come back in both games."

NOTES: The Ravens almost lost two of their top receivers to injuries during yesterday's practice. Michael Jackson went down early in the practice after sliding for a pass and then being hit from behind by Jenkins, causing Jackson to flip backward and bend his left knee. Calvin Williams later hurt his right knee while sliding for a pass on a slant-in pattern at the end of practice.

The latter incident touched off an exchange between offensive and defensive players. Both Williams and Jackson walked off the field without serious injuries, according to Marchibroda, but both will be re-evaluated today with Jackson possibly requiring X-rays. Rookie wide receiver Jermaine Lewis, from the University of Maryland, did not practice yesterday because he was getting further tests on his injured groin.

Ravens roll call

Frank Hartley

Pos.: Tight end

Height: 6-2

Weight: 268

Age: 28

College: Illinois

Year: 3rd

How acquired: 1994 free agent

Highlights: A physical blocker, he started 13 games last season in the double-tight end formation, with 11 receptions for 137 yards. In 1994, he started five regular-season games in the two-tight end set, and started in two playoff games. Four-year letterman at Illinois, with 21 receptions for 223 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Earned second-team All-Big 10 honors in 1989.

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