Playing 20 questions

July 20, 1998|By MIKE PRESTON | MIKE PRESTON,SUN STAFF

1

Is Jim Harbaugh the answer at quarterback?

Harbaugh offers the team qualities that former starter Vinny Testaverde lacked, such as leadership and the ability to pull out close games in the final two minutes. But Harbaugh has to have a solid preseason to earn respect from his teammates, because he hasn't been impressive throwing in practices. The Ravens wanted a gamer; now, Harbaugh has to live up to expectations.

2

Who were the top players signed and lost by the Ravens during the off-season?

Top acquisitions were cornerback Rod Woodson, running back Errict Rhett, Harbaugh and fullback Roosevelt Potts. Key losses were receiver Derrick Alexander, cornerback Antonio Langham, Testaverde, running back Bam Morris, cornerback Eugene Daniel, left guard Leo Goeas, running back Earnest Byner.

3

What is the key for the Ravens this season?

The Ravens have to get pressure on the quarterback. Physically, they match up well with most teams except for in the secondary. A great pass rush can make a suspect secondary look average. The Ravens need to establish a running game because Harbaugh's arm can't carry the offense.

4

Will coach Ted Marchibroda get a contract extension?

Because the Ravens schedule is so top-heavy, the first seven or eight games will probably dictate whether owner Art Modell re-signs Marchibroda, who is in the final year of a three-year contract. Speculation around the league already has Marchibroda replaced by Philadelphia Eagles coach Ray Rhodes, who is close friends with key Ravens front-office personnel, including Ozzie Newsome, James Harris and John Wooten.

5

Have the Ravens changed offensive and defensive philosophies?

The Ravens are committed to a two-back set - to provide more versatility - after running the one-back formation the past two years. The team will no longer feature the traditional drop-back passer, but instead use more rollouts and sprint-outs to exploit the talents of Harbaugh and backup Eric Zeier. The long ball, though, is not one of Harbaugh's specialties. Defensively, the Ravens will stay with a 4-3 scheme, but blitz more often to cover up a suspect secondary.

6

Can receiver Jermaine Lewis be as successful outside as he was in the slot a year ago?

The potential is there, especially the speed. But instead of drawing safeties and nickel backs like a year ago, Lewis will have to face one of the opposing team's top two cornerbacks. Teams will try to jam him, but Lewis is elusive at the line of scrimmage. He should put up impressive numbers, and the Ravens will use him in the slot occasionally to get mismatches. His health won't be as much of a factor, because Harbaugh seldom lofts passes over the middle that leave his receivers vulnerable.

7

Will it be Jay Graham or Errict Rhett as the starting running back?

It really doesn't matter. The tandem complements each other well. Graham has more breakaway potential, and Rhett is more consistent inside. Graham will be the starter going into training camp, but Rhett is a favorite to be the starter on opening day. Either way, the Ravens will need both.

8

Can Roosevelt Potts be a dominating fullback again?

All of the early indicators point to Potts' playing a significant role this season, but it's too early to tell if he can return to the form that made him one of the game's best several years ago, when he was with the Indianapolis Colts. Potts still has quick feet and soft hands, which make him a receiving threat out of the backfield. He also plays with great intensity, but he hasn't played regularly in two years. If he doesn't perform well, the Ravens will have major problems trying to operate out of the two-back set.

9

Who will be the Ravens' third receiver?

Barring any last-minute deals, it looks like third-year player James Roe will battle rookie and second-round pick Patrick Johnson for the third position. The Ravens like Johnson, but he still needs to work on getting his hands in position to catch the ball and might be a year away from contributing as a receiver. Roe played well when he replaced Alexander last season, but is not a favorite of Marchibroda's. Floyd Turner and Ray Crittenden could be in the mix if the Ravens sign either after camp opens.

10

What positions will have the most competition in camp?

Left guard and cornerback. It's basically a two-player race at left guard - Sale Isaia against Ben Cavil. Cavil has more playing experience, but Isaia is much more agile and is a project of line coach Kirk Ferentz. Top draft pick Duane Starks is listed as No. 2 behind Woodson at left cornerback, but if Starks develops quickly, Woodson could move over to replace DeRon Jenkins on the right side. The criticism of Starks is that his lack of size (170 pounds) might cause him to wear down by the end of the season.

11

Which players are on the hot seat?

Safeties Rondell Jones and Donny Brady, punter Greg Montgomery, running back Priest Holmes, receiver Ryan Yarborough and defensive end Mike Frederick.

12

Will the young starting linebacker trio dominate games?

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.