There may be Graham sighting in New York Rookie RB has no yards rushing in past four games

Ravens notebook

November 01, 1997|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Rookie running back Jay Graham smiled with anticipation as a reporter approached his locker after yesterday's practice. Graham seemed ready to answer the question before it was asked: "So Jay, think you'll see some action in the backfield this week?"

"I just take it as it goes. I don't worry about playing time," Graham said. "The biggest thing to me is getting better every day. That's what I concentrate on every day in practice."

Coach Ted Marchibroda said he expects Graham to see more playing time over the second half of the season. The re-emergence of Bam Morris -- coming off a career-high, 176-yard rushing effort in Sunday's victory over Washington -- has cut into Graham's carries.

Since coming off the bench to rush for 51 carries on nine attempts in the fourth quarter of the Ravens' 36-10 rout of Tennessee on Sept. 21, Graham basically has disappeared as an offensive factor. In the past four games, Graham has carried once for no yards, and has caught three passes for 5 yards.

Tomorrow's game against the New York Jets could present Graham with a chance to do more than perform on special teams. For one, Morris is still bothered by a sore ankle, which could be aggravated by the artificial turf at Giants Stadium. And Graham, with his impressive speed, should fit nicely with that surface.

"I know that [playing] is the best way to get experience. You just do what you can," said Graham, a third-round pick out of Tennessee, where he rushed for 1,438 yards as a junior. "I've learned so much since my first preseason game, and I've got to keep learning more."

Secondary healing

The Ravens' sore secondary is slowly getting better. Cornerback Antonio Langham (hamstring) practiced yesterday, although Marchibroda said Eugene Daniel, still bothered by two sore hamstrings, most likely will start in his place on the left side. DeRon Jenkins will start in Daniel's normal spot at right &r cornerback.

Receiver Michael Jackson is bothered by a sore shoulder, although Marchibroda said Jackson definitely would start.

Ravens want rerun

The Ravens would love to control the line of scrimmage tomorrow the same way they pushed around the Redskins last week. The Ravens ran the ball 44 times for 199 yards and held the ball for 35 minutes in that 20-17 victory.

The task promises to be more difficult against the Jets, who own the league's eighth-ranked defense against the run. They also present a 3-4 alignment that the Ravens have only seen once in 1997.

However, the Ravens could benefit from the loss of left inside linebacker Pepper Johnson to a season-ending quadriceps injury. Johnson, a 12-year veteran and one of the league's top run stuffers, also served as the defensive captain.

"They lose leadership, first of all. Pepper is a very intense, rah-rah type of player, the kind of guy everybody needs on their

team," said Ravens center Wally Williams, a former teammate of Johnson's in Cleveland.

Marchibroda downplayed the loss of Johnson.

"I don't think it's going to make that much of a difference," he said. "They [the Jets] are in that rhythm of playing good football right now. It may hurt them four or five games down the road, but I don't think it hurts them this week."

Johnson has been replaced by Dwayne Gordon, a fifth-year veteran out of New Hampshire.

Lyle thrives as Jet

Former Ravens defensive end Rick Lyle could not crack the starting lineup in Cleveland or Baltimore, but he has done it in New York. At left end, Lyle has recorded 25 tackles, 19 solo, and is second on the team with three sacks.

"Lyle has done a good job," Jets coach Bill Parcells said. "My expectations were not very high [when Lyle signed], but Rick has been very workmanlike."

Lyle will be matched up with Orlando Brown, the Ravens' 6-foot-7, 350-pound right tackle.

Miscellaneous

Tomorrow's game will provide a look at two of the top slot receivers in the league. The Ravens' Jermaine Lewis leads the team with a 17.2-yard average on 26 catches, and is second on the team with four touchdowns. The Jets' Wayne Chrebet leads New York receivers with 33 catches for 492 yards and three touchdowns. Fifteen of Chrebet's receptions have come on third down. He averages 15 yards per third-down catch. The Jets have committed only nine turnovers. Quarterback Neil O'Donnell has thrown only three interceptions in 258 attempts. He has thrown 12 touchdown passes.

Pub Date: 11/01/97

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