Herring starting to impress Ravens rookie safety draws praise for play in win over Redskins

October 28, 1997|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

As the Ravens prepare for the beginning of the second half of their season Sunday against the New York Jets, it has become apparent that Kim Herring eventually will become the team's starting free safety.

In the Ravens' 20-17 win against the Washington Redskins Sunday at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium, it took five plays for Herring to replace starter Rondell Jones. And Herring responded with his best game of the season, penetrating the line of scrimmage for several tackles and finishing with four, tied for second highest in the game with two other players.

Herring also had one special teams tackle and combined with middle linebacker Ray Lewis to tackle tight end Jamie Asher 2 yards short of a first down at the Ravens' 7-yard line with 6: 46 left in the game.

"He played well," said Alvin Reynolds, Ravens secondary coach. "He attacked the line of scrimmage, made a couple of tackles in the backfield or at least assisted. Whenever we have needed him, he has done a good job."

Herring, from Penn State, was the Ravens' second pick of the second round, the 58th player chosen. When the team initially drafted him, there was confusion about his status as a starter.

But Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda is hesitant about starting rookies, and the team already had two penciled in at outside linebacker -- top draft pick Peter Boulware and Jamie Sharper, who was the 34th player chosen.

Since training camp, Herring has heard a lot of speculation about starting. Even he can sense the time is winding down.

"[Defensive coordinator] Marvin Lewis had told me I was going to get in, but he made the decision after the fourth or fifth play," Herring said. "I was like, 'Whoa, what is going on here?' I didn't know it was going to happen that quick. I didn't hear any thing about Rondell being injured, so I guess it was their decision.'

Jones has been a special teams player most of his five years in the NFL. During the first half of the season, he has been hampered by hamstring, groin, shoulder and knee injuries, and had problems covering receivers as well as being slow closing on them.

"In fairness to Rondell, we have to get him well," Marchibroda said. "He has struggled with injuries most of the season."

Reynolds said: "Rondell has been a little banged up, and we want to get him healthy so they can both compete for the spot. He is a veteran who has provided leadership. We were trying to work Kim along gradually, but the injuries have been beneficial to Herring because it has increased his role on the team."

Herring said the transition to the pro game has been fairly easy, but more of mental adjustment instead of physical. At Penn State, Herring was a free safety whose basic responsibility was either to play the deep zone or man-to-man coverage.

The Ravens' safeties are interchangeable. They have to be just as strong against the pass as the run. Basically, a free safety has to be a strong safety at times.

"You have to do things over and over again to get them right," Herring said. "There is just so much preparation involved. In college, you didn't see much of the three- and four-receiver set. What I've been trying to do is make this all second nature to me. I know the defense, but I'm only 85 percent comfortable with it.

"I've always thought aggression was my strength, but it can also be a weakness. You're so eager to make some thing happen that you can end up out of position. I've heard for a while that I'm eventually going to be a starter, and hopefully I think I can bring something to the table."

Herring has whetted the Ravens' appetite.

"He has the potential to be a very good safety in this league," Reynolds said. "He has a lot of talent and a nose for the ball. He works hard, and the more reps he gets, the more progress we're seeing. We think he can get the job done. He doesn't have to make every play, just the plays in front of him that need to be made."

Next for Ravens

Opponent: New York Jets

Site: Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

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

Line: Jets by 5

Series: First meeting

Pub Date: 10/28/97

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