Ravens' secondary in line for a test Packers capable of stretching unit

August 14, 1996|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis has given out the orders to his secondary this week: Move fast, be confident or get humiliated.

It is a short, simple and realistic message.

"The offense we're about to face has great execution," said Lewis. "They do an excellent job of stretching defenses horizontally and vertically. They have proven receivers complemented by a running game. There must be a premium on quickness on defense, or you can get really embarrassed."

Quarterback Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers can do that to a defense. Last season, wide receiver Robert Brooks caught 102 passes and Favre threw for 4,413 yards and earned league Most Valuable Player honors.

Favre brings the Packers' West Coast offense to Memorial Stadium on Saturday night when they meet the Ravens in preseason game No. 3.

"They take whatever you give them, but they'll take the 5 and turn it into 70," said Ravens free safety Eric Turner. "But they'll take the 70-yarder too. The thing about Favre is that his arm is so strong that he puts it in places where you don't think he can throw it.

"There are only a couple of guys around the league like that," Turner added. "John Elway. Dan Marino. Warren Moon can still do it. You can have great coverage but relax for one second, and whoah, it's over."

That's why the Ravens look forward to playing Green Bay. No team has tested their secondary yet. The Philadelphia Eagles basically had a short passing game, and the New York Giants had none.

Now here comes the total package.

"The big test," said Ravens safety Vashone Adams.

It will be an intriguing matchup because the Ravens' secondary was toasted for 238.9 passing yards per game last season after allowing only 197.3 in 1994.

What happened?

The Ravens blame it on injuries.

Turner, an All-Pro, missed the second half of last season with a back injury. Cornerback Antonio Langham started all 16 games last season, but played most of the season with strained ligaments in his thumbs. He wasn't close to the form that made him the NFLPA defensive rookie of the year in 1994.

Starting safety Stevon Moore had a great season and was selected as the first Pro Bowl alternate, but Don Griffin, the other starting cornerback, struggled with ligament damage in his wrist most of the season.

The Ravens cut Griffin in the off-season.

"The injuries just kept mounting," said Adams. "But I believe we now have one of the strongest units on the team. We have athletic ability and each one of us can run and tackle. We can play man to man, each corner or safety on our team. Maybe the best thing is that we have people who can step up and do the job on both the first and second teams."

They have in training camp thus far, with safeties Moore, Turner, Adams and Bennie Thompson crunching everything in sight.

But Turner knows everything will have to be proven on the field.

"We have the potential to be great, but we have to prove ourselves," said Turner.

There are still some questions to be answered. It has become apparent that teams are going to go after Issac Booth, a third-year player who replaced Griffin and has struggled during the first two preseason games.

Secondly, the Ravens and formerly the Browns have gone through three different defensive coordinators the past three years.

They're still in the process of learning the terminology.

"That's probably the biggest difference," said Adams. "It's learning to feel comfortable with the terminology. Once we get that down, I think our athletic ability will take over and we'll be more aggressive when the regular season gets here."

The Packers will give the Ravens a number of different looks. While Brooks led the team in receptions last season, running back Edgar Bennett was second with 61.

But what really sets the Packers apart are tight ends Mark Chmura and Keith Jackson. Both are big and can go deep. Packers coach Mike Holmgren has even gone to a two tight-end set at times.

"Those two can give you all kinds of trouble," said Turner. "It's unusual to have two like that on the same team."

The Ravens look forward to the test of stopping Favre's quick three-step dropback and the Packers' ability to turn short passes into long yards. Someone also has to hold down Brooks, two talented tight ends and a solid receiver out of the backfield.

"We are about to take on one of the elite in the NFL," said Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda.

Next for Ravens

Opponent: Green Bay Packers

Site: Memorial Stadium

When: Saturday, 7 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)

Ravens schedule

Exhibition

Date ........... Opponent .......... Time/Results

Aug. 3 ......... Philadelphia ...... W, 17-9

Aug. 10 ........ at NY Giants ...... W, 37-27

Saturday ....... Green Bay ......... 7 p.m.

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

Regular season

Sept. 1 ........ Oakland ........... 1 p.m.

Sept. 8 ........ at Pittsburgh ..... 1 p.m.

Sept. 15 ....... at Houston ........ 1 p.m.

Sept. 22 ....... Bye week

Sept. 29 ....... New Orleans ....... 1 p.m.

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