Minus Starks, Jenkins rates good marks Veteran draws attention in absence of No. 1 pick


Cotton grateful for Potts

July 27, 1998|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

There has been little progress in negotiations between the Ravens and top draft pick Duane Starks, the University of Miami cornerback, so more of the focus has shifted to DeRon Jenkins, the cornerback who is beginning his third season.

Starks was supposed to challenge Jenkins for the starting job, Jenkins but the rookie missed his sixth day of training camp and Pat Moriarty, the team's chief financial officer, reported no progress in contract talks. The Ravens have made a multiyear offer to Starks worth almost $8.5 million.

Jenkins, though, has performed well in training camp.

"He's done well, a good job," defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis said. "I think DeRon has a better direction or has mentally matured into what he needs to do."

Said coach Ted Marchibroda: "I can't say anything extremely positive, but I don't know of him getting beat. He's doing his job, he really is."

Cotton's motivation

Second-year running back Kenyon Cotton put in his time in the weight room this off-season, but his major motivation may have come from fullback Roosevelt Potts, whom the team signed earlier this year.

Potts is running with the first team and Cotton on the second unit. Both have delivered some jarring blocks in camp.

"I've decided to do the best I can and let the coaches decide if its satisfactory or not," Cotton said. "Roosevelt has helped me a lot even when he doesn't know it, just by the way he carries himself, studies, works on the field and gets himself in the right frame of mind.

"It's nice to have a coach on the field as well as off it because his actions speak instead of his words."

Rhett's mouth runs, too

Running back Errict Rhett has more energy than some of his teammates expected. Thus far in camp, he has gone nonstop with his actions as well as his mouth. He is always chattering with the defensive players about taking them on.

"That's because I got a big offensive line," said Rhett, who runs behind one of the biggest lines in the NFL. "When you have guys this big, it's easy to do some talking."

Rhett recently was asked if he was ready to play football. He gave a typical Rhett answer.

"Sure, I'm ready to play," he said. "I was born ready to play. I came out of the womb ready to play."

Said defensive tackle James Jones: "He has a lot of energy. He can talk."

Johnson makes impression

Rookie receiver Patrick Johnson, the second-round pick out of ,, Oregon and a former NCAA sprint champion, continues to impress the coaching staff as well as some of the defensive players.

Receivers coach Richard Mann said Johnson has developed quickly, partly because he's a quick study.

"You don't have to tell him things twice," Mann said.

Said Marchibroda: "I think a key in his development was coming to work out at Owings Mills two weeks before training camp started.

"He got to spend some individual time with Eric Zeier and it really helped him. He got a head start on some of the other rookies."

Linemen like formation

The Ravens are using the two-back formation this season, which means they plan on doing a lot of running, as opposed to pass-blocking from the one-back set of a year ago.

Besides Rhett and fellow running back Jay Graham being happy, the offensive linemen are wearing a few grins, too.

"The temperament is there, I can see it," said right tackle Orlando Brown. "We're a lot further ahead now than we were last year. We still need some work, like on the double-team and stepping in the right directions; little things people can't see. We need to work on footwork and hand placement, but our attitude is right."

Black-and-blue division

The NFC East is known for its physical, run-pounding offenses, but that reputation may shift to the AFC Central, which has Pittsburgh's Jerome Bettis, Tennessee's Eddie George and Cincinnati's Corey Dillon. Pittsburgh and Jacksonville also have two of the NFL's most physical offensive lines.

Besides having to face George, Bettis and Dillon twice this season, the Ravens have Minnesota's Robert Smith, Indianapolis' Marshall Faulk and Detroit's Barry Sanders to contend with.

The Ravens had one of the top 10 run defenses in the league last season, allowing 105.6 yards a game.

"We have the conference guys twice a year and, with Jacksonville, you can put anybody behind that line and they're going to be good," Jones said.

"We've got a physical offensive line here and that will prepare us for the season. But any time you face a Barry Sanders or a Marshall Faulk, I take it as a challenge. You know they're the best, so it lets you know where you are. It makes for an interesting season."

Jones said the Ravens' defensive line has improved.

"No. 1, we're more healthy because both [defensive ends] Mike McCrary and Rob Burnett have fully recovered from knee injuries that they played with last year," Jones said.

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