Two-back attack back in focus, awaits call Graham, modified line look to revive ground game

October 18, 1997|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

The Ravens have not disguised their desire to improve their sluggish running game.

Six games into the season, they are averaging just 3.7 yards a carry and have produced merely three rushing touchdowns. Their longest run from scrimmage is 19 yards. They have thrown the ball nearly a hundred more times (238-144) than they have run it.

Ten NFL running backs have produced more rushing yards than the Ravens (533): Denver's Terrell Davis, Pittsburgh's Jerome Bettis, New England's Curtis Martin, the Jets' Adrian Murrell, Tennessee's Eddie George, Oakland's Napoleon Kaufman, Detroit's Barry Sanders, Minnesota's Robert Smith, Chicago's Raymont Harris and Green Bay's Dorsey Levens. Only 25 percent of the Ravens' offensive production has come on the ground.

While preparing for tomorrow's game with Miami, the Ravens have placed more emphasis on their two-back offense, and on re-establishing speedy rookie running back Jay Graham as a complement to 250-pound Bam Morris.

How much will the Ravens resort to their two-back attack?

"It's hard to say," quarterback Vinny Testaverde said. "It's no secret we need to run the ball better, and one way to do that is to use the two-back. But we're still a three-receiver [one-back] team, and we need to run the ball out of that set, too."

The Ravens hope the return of center Wally Williams and the insertion of Ben Cavil at left guard will energize the ground game and help them control the line of scrimmage.

Brigance returns to town

Safety Bennie Thompson leads the Ravens with 11 special teams tackles, marking the eighth straight year he has reached double figures in that category.

One of Thompson's Miami counterparts is O.J. Brigance, who is second on the Dolphins with 10 special teams tackles.

Baltimore fans might remember Brigance as a key performer for the Stallions during their two-year Canadian Football League stay here. Brigance helped the Stallions to back-to-back appearances in the Grey Cup game, and he recorded 10 tackles in the team's Grey Cup victory over Calgary in 1995.

Brigance, a backup linebacker who is signed through next season, still maintains a home in Bel Air.

"O.J. is one of the better special teams players in the league, and he doesn't get the notoriety for it," Miami coach Jimmy Johnson said.

Marino, Strock reunited

When Miami quarterback Dan Marino takes the Memorial Stadium field to warm up tomorrow, he'll be reunited once again with an old friend in Ravens quarterbacks coach Don Strock.

Strock spent 15 seasons (1973-87) as a backup quarterback with Miami, where he tutored Marino in his early years. The two developed a friendship that has grown closer over the years. Strock is the godfather of Marino's oldest son. Marino named his third son Joseph Donald, which is Strock's first and middle names turned around.

The Marino family will be staying with Strock and his wife at their Pikesville home.

"There will be a houseful there, I can tell you that much," Strock said. "Our wives talk all of the time. Last Christmas, we stayed at [the Marinos'] house, and we'll probably do it again this year."

Miscellaneous

The Dolphins have turned the ball over just three times in 1997. Ravens kicker Matt Stover is second in the NFL in scoring with 59 points. He has converted 15 of 16 field-goal attempts and has made all 14 of his extra-point attempts. Marino has not thrown an interception in 126 attempts, a club record. Dolphins left tackle Richmond Webb will make his 101st consecutive start tomorrow. It is the longest current streak on the team and the second-longest streak in team history.

Pub Date: 10/18/97

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