Ravens aim to reach Moon Hurting secondary makes rush critical

December 07, 1997|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

The Ravens' most important strategy for winning today's game against the Seattle Seahawks at Memorial Stadium is pretty cut and dried: Slow, harass or stop quarterback Warren Moon.

The Seahawks (6-7) bring the NFL's top-rated passing attack and one of the league's best-ever pure passers into Baltimore today to face a Ravens secondary that has been hit hard by injuries and could include as many as three rookie starters.

The Ravens (4-8-1) will start rookies Kim Herring and Ralph Staten at safety and second-year player DeRon Jenkins at right cornerback. When they go to dime coverage, cornerbacks John Williams, a rookie, and Donny Brady, a second-year player, will be part of the package.

That doesn't sound too promising against Moon, who has thrown for more than 40,000 yards in his career, and a passing attack that averages 248.3 yards a game. Who is going to cover wide receiver Joey Galloway, who has 835 yards in receptions? And who will match up with receiver Mike Pritchard, who has 51 receptions?

"Warren Moon is a Hall of Fame quarterback," said Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda. "Moon has seen it all through the years and he won't be surprised by anything we do."

Said starting left cornerback Antonio Langham, now the elder statesman with four years of experience: "I've told some of the younger guys that they're going to have to step up. Stevon [Moore, safety] was the veteran; he was always the guy that got us together in the tunnel before the game to get us relaxed. I guess that's my responsibility now."

Moore, a nine-year veteran, is out for the season after he was found to have a fracture in his left knee last week. Regular right cornerback Eugene Daniel is out with a thigh injury, and veteran safety Rondell Jones is questionable with a groin problem.

Langham has urged some of the rookies to continue their crash (( course until the last minute before the game. The Ravens are allowing 235.8 passing yards a game.

"I've told them to soak up the last little bit of information, get as much knowledge as you can," Langham said. "If that means spending more time studying film, then do it. Against a player like Warren Moon, you've got to know your positions as well as read your keys."

The Ravens know they will have to get to Moon, who has been sacked 25 times this year, most of those in the past three games.

The Seahawks are expected to be without starting right tackle Howard Ballard and starting right guard Derrick Graham because of injuries. Starting left tackle Walter Jones, a rookie, has been slowed because of ankle injuries.

That leaves right tackle Grant Williams and Jones, respectively, against Ravens rookie strong-side linebacker Peter Boulware and defensive end Michael McCrary, the team's top two pass rushers.

"We all understand that we have to get pressure on Moon, and that if we do, it takes a lot of heat off our secondary," said Ravens defensive tackle Tony Siragusa.

Ravens quarterback Eric Zeier might be feeling a little pressure, too. He will be making his first start since the team moved to Baltimore, replacing Vinny Testaverde (strained left knee).

Marchibroda decided to start Zeier on Thursday, and Testaverde will be ready as a backup. But Marchibroda hinted that if Zeier plays well, he might battle Testaverde for the starting job.

"We haven't changed our game plan, even though we might roll out a little more," Marchibroda said. "The thing I like about Eric is the way he prepares himself; he gets ready every week. This is a big opportunity for him. I'm not going to make any determination for Eric from here on out."

The Ravens will start Bam Morris at running back in place of rookie Jay Graham, who has been bothered by an ankle injury. Unlike Testaverde, Graham won't be used in a backup capacity. That role will go to veteran Earnest Byner.

"The ankle is still bothering him a bit, and Jay has been a little tentative," Marchibroda said. "We feel it's in our best interest to go with Bam."

Though James Roe will start, Marchibroda said he plans to get Derrick Alexander, the team's leading receiver, onto the field against the Seahawks. Alexander was benched because of several dropped passes during games and poor practices. He didn't play in last Sunday's 29-27 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Ravens could use his experience and speed against Seattle, which has allowed 184.0 passing yards a game.

But don't expect the Ravens to come out throwing; not with Zeier.

"We want to come out with the offensive line's philosophy, and that's to run the football," said right tackle Orlando Brown.

"Their strength is the defensive line and linebackers. They're a gap team with finesse players, but our strength is run blocking."

Pub Date: 12/07/97

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