Ravens cut to the quick for Marino Team knows Miami QB will be passing, but task is far from easy

CB Daniel a familiar foe

After bye, Ravens try to stabilize defense

October 15, 1997|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Marino is coming.

Take it from Ravens cornerback Eugene Daniel. If you're a defensive back in the NFL, the mere mention of Miami quarterback Dan Marino commands a level of respect and admiration that borders on reverence.

"There are certain guys in the NFL, you can just say their name, and that stands for what type of player they are," Daniel said. "We're talking about one of those guys here."

After enjoying a weekend off, the Ravens (3-3) are back to the business of trying to end their two-game losing streak. Among other tasks, they are trying to stabilize a defense that has fallen on leaky times lately.

In their back-to-back defeats against the San Diego Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ravens surrendered 73 points, with an alarming amount of damage coming through the air.

They have allowed 11 touchdown passes, including six in the past two games. Their pass defense is ranked last in the league, having given up an average of 268.7 yards a game.

The good news for the Ravens is that their secondary is decidedly healthier after the bye week. Then again, the visiting Dolphins (4-2) and a no-brainer Hall of Famer named Marino could leave them feeling sick again on Sunday.

Fifteen years into his storied career -- a career that has seen him set all-time records for touchdown passes (375), passing yards (53,171), pass attempts (7,126) and pass completions (4,259) -- Marino, 36, is aging pretty well.

The years, and the knee, ankle and foot surgeries that have accompanied them, have severely cut down his mobility. He doesn't pile up the 300-yard passing games as easily as he once did.

But, after an ineffective start in 1997 that prompted Miami coach Jimmy Johnson to contemplate benching him, Marino has reminded observers he still has a few wicked shots left in that right arm.

Just ask the New York Jets, who saw Marino pummel them for 372 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday's 31-20 Miami victory.

"He's as dangerous as ever. Obviously, he's one of the best ever," Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis said of Marino.

"He has our attention, and he'll keep it all week and he'll have the attention of everyone at Memorial Stadium. He's a great one. When you come into the NFL, you want to face guys like this, because it's such a challenge."

Containing Marino is one of those challenges that can seriously deprive coaches of sleep as they prepare for Sunday.

Pressuring Marino with a good pass rush is high on the Ravens' priority list, although Marino always has countered blitzes effectively with one of the quickest releases in history. That release is a huge reason the Dolphins have typically allowed among the fewest sacks in the NFL. Miami has permitted just four sacks this year, second-best in the league.

"You've got to do some things to throw him off. Put some pressure on him, make him move. Don't just let him sit there in the pocket," said Daniel, who spent 13 years with the Indianapolis Colts before signing last month with Baltimore and earning a starting spot at cornerback alongside Antonio Langham.

Daniel remembers the first time he faced Marino, as a rookie in the 1984 preseason. Back in the Mark Duper-Mark Clayton days, back when Marino was a second-year quarterback preparing to carry Miami to its last Super Bowl appearance by throwing an astonishing 48 touchdown passes -- another record that still stands.

Over the next 13 years, Daniel faced Marino twice each regular season. Daniel remembers some good days, as well as his share of rough afternoons out there on the corner. He always has appreciated the fearlessness and competitive fire that have driven Marino, as he has gunned throw after throw to places few passers would try to reach.

"He's one of those quarterbacks who does things you've never seen before," Daniel said. "He's still challenging defensive backs, even when they're all over his receiver. He still gets rid of the ball so quickly, he still throws it sometimes before the receiver has even made his cut.

"Any cornerback who has played against him remembers some rough days, but you can't be afraid of him. You want to shut him out, but you have to be realistic. The chances of doing that against any quarterback, much less a guy like him, are slim."

Lewis said the key to neutralizing Marino is to pressure him and present him with constantly changing looks on defense. Bring blitzes from different angles. Mix up your man-to-man and zone coverages. Don't give away your double-team plans too easily.

"He seems to do well against too much of anything. Generally, you have to come at him with a variety of things," Lewis said.

"Not many things are going to fool him," Daniel said.

For the Ravens, the resting is over, and show time is upon them.

Marino is coming.

NOTES: The Ravens waived rookie linebacker Tyrell Peters yesterday, dropping their roster number to 52. Sources said the club plans to fill that spot by signing defensive end Keith Washington, who worked out for the team last month. Washington is expected to take a physical today. Receiver Ray Ethridge could have surgery tomorrow to repair a dislocated thumb. The Ravens will place Ethridge on injured reserve.

Next for Ravens

Opponent: Miami Dolphins Site: Memorial Stadium

When: Sunday, 4 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 11/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)

Line: Dolphins by 1 1/2

Series: First meeting

Pub Date: 10/15/97

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