Secondary help sought in tryouts 28th-ranked pass defense leads team to bring in candidates to fill spots

Ravens notebook

September 16, 1997|By Mike Preston and Gary Lambrecht | Mike Preston and Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

In an effort to improve the team's major overall weakness, the Ravens are expected to begin working out several defensive backs today, according to Ozzie Newsome, the team's vice president of player personnel.

The Ravens have been allowing 285 yards passing a game and have the 28th-ranked pass defense out of the league's 30 teams. Only the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Tennessee Oilers are allowing more yards.

The New York Giants entered Sunday's game with 178 passing yards a game, but Giants quarterback Dave Brown threw for 269 yards against the Ravens, who have the No. 7-ranked rushing defense in the league.

To make matters worse, Ravens starting cornerback Antonio Langham is questionable for Sunday's game against the Oilers. If Langham can't play, the Ravens will start either Dorian Brew or DeRon Jenkins at the position. Overall, the team has not been impressed with the play of Brew, Jenkins and Donny Brady, the team's other starting cornerback.

As of late last night, Newsome was still trying to confirm player visits for today.

"We're anticipating some defensive backs to work out," said Newsome. "We don't have them confirmed yet. There aren't any big names, but there will be names some people ae going to recognize."

Learning process

Coach Ted Marchibroda said he isn't sure if his team relaxed a bit after starting strong against the Giants. But after the Ravens stopped New York's opening possession on three downs, scored easily on their first possession to take a 7-0 lead, then stumbled through most of the next three quarters, Marchibroda learned something about them over the game's final 10 minutes.

The Ravens scored 10 points during their final two possessions. Their defense, which was beaten at the line of scrimmage throughout the second and third quarters as the team fell behind stopped the Giants twice down the stretch.

And the Ravens, who came out second best in total yardage (390-273), first downs (29-19) and time of possession (35: 51-24: 09), escaped with a 24-23 victory, their first on the road.

"One of the reasons we won the ballgame is we kept our poise throughout the second half," Marchibroda said. "We started off like a house on fire, then we went for about 2 1/2 quarters where we didn't do much of anything. You're going to have games like that sometimes.

"We had to do it with our big-play guys [like wide receivers Michael Jackson and Derrick Alexander and tight end Eric Green, who combined for 200 yards receiving and a touchdown]. We have to be careful not to become self-satisfied. There were enough things done wrong that we can learn from. This was a good game to point those things out."

Losing their grip

One of the Ravens' problems was shaky tackling, particularly in the secondary, where players such as safeties Stevon Moore and Rondell Jones and cornerback Jenkins struggled. Even middle linebacker Ray Lewis, who finished with an astounding 22 tackles, 16 solo, missed a handful.

Lewis said his hands became swollen during the game, and that affected his ability to grab ball carriers effectively.

"The personal statistics were OK, but I could've had many more [tackles] if I hadn't missed about five of them," Lewis said. "I'm pretty hard on myself when I miss tackles."

But Lewis did not miss his biggest tackle of the game. He teamed with linebacker Jamie Sharper to stop Giants running back Tiki Barber for a 1-yard loss on a third-and-one at the Ravens' 23 with three minutes left. New York kicker Brad Daluiso then missed a 41-yard field-goal try, giving the Ravens the

chance they needed to win the game on a field goal by Matt Stover.

"That [stopping Barber] was the play of the game. If we don't stop them, they run out the clock on us," Marchibroda said.

Marchibroda attributed Moore's and Jones' tackling problems to lack of practice time last week, as each of them missed workout time while nursing knee ailments. An MRI exam on Jones' knee yesterday revealed no serious damage, only a bone bruise that might prevent him from playing against Oilers.

Marchibroda also suggested that last week's practice conditions the Ravens worked out twice in the rain -- probably had an effect on their preparations.

"We practiced for two days in the mud last week, and they were good practices, but I think we came out with heavy legs yesterday," he said.

No break on call

The Ravens also overcame a questionable call that affected the game's momentum early in the second half. Barber had rushed for 16 yards to the Ravens' 29, but appeared to have the ball knocked loose as he spun away from a pile. Brady scooped up the apparent fumble, but officials ruled the play dead, citing forward progress.

The Giants finished a touchdown drive seven plays later to take their first lead of the game, 20-14, with 9: 13 left in the third quarter.

"I thought it looked like [Barber] was still fighting to get away," Marchibroda said. "We're still owed a few breaks."

The Ravens certainly didn't get one from the league's schedule makers in September. The other four AFC Central teams were off on Sunday. This week, the Ravens travel to play division rival Tennessee -- Baltimore's second of three consecutive road games -- and the Oilers enjoyed an extra week to prepare for them.

Miscellaneous

vTC

Quarterback Vinny Testaverde connected on nine of his last 11 passes for 93 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown to Jackson, who made two spectacular diving catches on that scoring drive. Punter Greg Montgomery contributed his strongest effort of the season, averaging 45.8 yards on six attempts. Several times, he dug the Ravens out of possible field-position trouble with fine punts.

Pub Date: 9/16/97

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