R. Lewis finds his path clearer Front men Siragusa, Jones help linebacker to 13 tackles

Ravens notebook

September 02, 1997|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Middle linebacker Ray Lewis figured his quality of life would improve when the Ravens added right defensive tackle Tony Siragusa in the off-season. In Sunday's season-opening, 28-27 loss, the presence of Siragusa and a stronger James Jones at left tackle paid huge dividends for Lewis.

L He recorded a game-high 13 tackles, including 12 solo stops.

"Just trying to do my job. If we had a win to go with it, it would have been a great day," Lewis said.

Part of Lewis' outstanding production was attributable to his trademark toughness and hustle. Lewis also benefited from the freedom that resulted from Jones and Siragusa occupying blockers in front of him.

"And if I wasn't free, [Siragusa and Jones] were making plays in the backfield," Lewis said. "Last year was a different story. If I was getting hit last year, no one up front was making a play."

Ogden handles transition

Left tackle Jonathan Ogden said his first day at his new/old position went well. Ogden, last year's top draft pick out of UCLA, Ogden switched from left tackle to left guard as a rookie. After the Ravens dealt veteran left tackle Tony Jones to Denver in the off-season, Ogden moved to his old spot.

It was a challenging introduction, as Jacksonville started second-year budding star Tony Brackens at right end, then rotated veterans Clyde Simmons and Jeff Lageman there. Ogden was called for a holding penalty, before giving up a sack to Simmons later.

"Considering it was my first game back out there, I thought I did a decent job," Ogden said. "It was harder coming into my first regular season as a guard last year. This is a different position, but I'm more prepared for the adjustments and the speed of the game than I was at this time last year."

Left defensive end Rob Burnett said he felt "like a lightning rod" after he recorded his first sack of Jacksonville quarterback Rob Johnson. Burnett, who went on to record six tackles and two sacks, enjoyed a triumphant return to the game. He missed the final 10 games last season with a knee injury.

"It was electrifying, quite a charge," Burnett said. "It kind of reassured me that I could still do it."

Paying their dues

For rookie Jay Graham and second-year player Tony Vinson, the opener fulfilled different levels of expectation.

Graham, who had hoped to spell running back Earnest Byner, never touched the ball. His role was reduced to special teams work. Vinson, also playing in his first NFL game, figured the extent of his involvement would be on special teams. He made the most of his chance by collecting two tackles in kickoff coverage during the second quarter.

"It was exciting, a huge rush," said Vinson, a Towson State alum whose performance was witnessed by about a dozen friends and family members.

Said Graham: "I'd like to be in there [in the offensive backfield], but I'm here to do what the coaches want me to do. If it means playing on special teams, that's what I've got to do. Whenever my name is called, I'll be ready."

Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda said he expected Graham to get some carries against Cincinnati on Sunday.

Running argument

Marchibroda further addressed his decision to try passes in first- and second-and-goal situations at the Jacksonville 5, six minutes into the fourth quarter.

At that point, the Ravens were leading 24-21. Byner had ripped off runs of 19 and 7 yards in two of the previous three plays to get them close to a critical touchdown that would have forced the Jaguars to score twice to win.

Instead of running Byner into a tiring Jacksonville line, Marchibroda elected to try two consecutive passes to Jermaine Lewis in the end zone. Both of Vinny Testaverde's attempts fell incomplete, including one that was nearly intercepted. On third down, Byner's draw play netted 2 yards, forcing the Ravens to settle for a Matt Stover field goal.

"We thought with Jermaine's quickness, he was faster than what they had back there [in the end zone]," Marchibroda said. "No question about it, a 10-point lead is better than a six-point lead. We'll never know [if running Byner earlier was the better call]."

Extra points

Marchibroda said right defensive end Michael McCrary (knee), who was available on an emergency basis for the opener, will play against the Bengals. There is an outside chance McCrary will start. The Ravens have created $89,000 in salary cap room by restructuring the contract of Stover, extending it through 1999. Tight end Brian Kinchen could be losing his starting job soon to Eric Green, who caught four passes for 41 yards on Sunday. Kinchen had a career-high 55 catches last year. "I line up where they tell me, and I can't control anything but that," Kinchen said. "It's tough when there aren't a lot of people on your side. It's always been tough for me. I deal with it and go on."

Pub Date: 9/02/97

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