Pass catchers to rely on group dynamics Breakaway threat gone, but Marchibroda's high on set of 'real players'

August 31, 1996|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

Andre Rison is gone, taking away the team's only bona fide breakaway threat, but consistency is the buzzword for the Ravens' receivers.

"We don't have a spectacular one like Jerry Rice, but what we've got is good, maybe very good," said Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda. "We've got receivers who are real football players.

"We've got outstanding ability and good experience in the receiver corps, a bunch of guys who have been in the NFL."

The Ravens waived Rison on July 17 because of salary cap reasons and are hoping Michael Jackson takes his place as the team's clutch performer.

Jackson, entering his sixth season with the club, is a big-play, long-stride receiver who owns a 26.7-yard average on his 28 career touchdown receptions.

He had a career- and team-high nine touchdown receptions last season despite missing three games with a groin injury.

This could be his breakthrough season.

"Michael has a lot of ability," said Mike Sheppard, the team's receivers coach. "Now he has to step up another level. He can do that if he stays healthy."

The Ravens opted for a two-for-one deal with the release of tTC Rison, signing free-agent receivers Calvin Williams (formerly with the Philadelphia Eagles) and Floyd Turner (Indianapolis Colts).

Neither has exceptional speed, but each has a strong work ethic and runs disciplined patterns, which Rison was accused of failing to do last season in Cleveland.

Turner had 35 receptions for 431 yards with Marchibroda and the Colts last season. Williams, from Dunbar High, led the Eagles in receiving yards with 768 and receptions with a career-high 63.

Turner and Williams are part of the four-man mix, playing behind Jackson and Derrick Alexander. Alexander will try to return to his rookie form of 1994, when he had 48 receptions. He had 15 a season ago.

"This is a hard-working group," said Sheppard. "They have a strong work ethic, so we haven't lost anything there. This group has a lot to prove and everyone is anxious."

Ray Ethridge, Jermaine Lewis and James Roe are the last three receivers on the roster, but they probably won't get much playing time.

The tight end position is a concern. The Ravens have no speed and no players who can stretch defenses. Brian Kinchen will start, but will split time with Frank Hartley in running situations. Harold Bishop is the third tight end.

Scouting report

Strengths: The top four receivers, as a unit, are solid and as good as most groups in the league.

Weaknesses: The Ravens lack a real speedster among the top four, and there is no game-breaker.

Key to success: The Ravens have to keep the passing attack in the middle of the field, but occasionally throw long to keep defenses honest.

Pub Date: 8/31/96

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