Ravens bear up well in opener Marchibroda pleased as many facets of win are a step up from '97

August 10, 1998|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

By midday yesterday, Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda was already poring over the game film of Saturday night's 19-14 preseason-opening win over the Chicago Bears before a sellout crowd of 65,938 at Later To Be Named Stadium.

There were a lot of things Marchibroda liked, including the

first-unit offense's scoring on two of three possessions in the first half, the defense's limiting the Bears to 84 yards of total offense, the special teams' forcing a major turnover and the Ravens holding a fourth-quarter lead.

Hardly the Same Old Ravens, eh?

"I think overall we wanted to see how good we are," said Marchibroda. "These guys have worked hard during the off-season, through minicamp and training camp, and they wanted to see it pay off. They were happy with the performance. We still made too many mistakes and we need to be crisper, but, overall, it was a decent showing.

"On defense, sometimes we got ahead the last couple of years and we sort of relaxed. I told Marvin [Lewis, defensive coordinator] to tell his guys that's where we got in trouble last year. But we held them until the end of the ballgame. That's extremelypositive."

Even though the Ravens were playing the Bears, they showed the same type of businesslike attitude against Chicago they have in training camp. In fact, the Ravens may have been more efficient against the Bears because the intensity level was up a notch.

The Ravens' offense went as expected, with quarterback Jim Harbaugh basically passing only when he had to, completing 10 of 13 passes for 60 yards, before Marchibroda pulled most of the starting offense with 6: 07 left in the first half. Tight end Eric Green was the top receiver, catching four passes for 18 yards.

The team's priority was to establish a running game, and the Ravens finished with 197 yards, led by halfbacks Errict Rhett (63 yards) and Jay Graham (37) and fullback Roosevelt Potts, who had some crunching lead and isolation blocks.

As of yesterday, Graham was still the starting running back, but even Marchibroda had to admit that the veteran Rhett has intangibles that second-year player Graham doesn't offer.

"Rhett and Potsy have a competitive fire," said Marchibroda. "Errict can spark a team with his attitude, but Jay can do the same thing with his ability. I think they're about even, and it's a good complement to have going into the season. Potts did the job, and he is only at about 75 to 80 percent of what he really can do."

Marchibroda said he was satisfied with the efforts of left guard Ben Cavil, who started the game, as well as backup guard/tackle Spencer Folau, Cavil's chief competition. Center Jeff Mitchell, filling in for holdout Wally Williams, also played better than anticipated. A surprising move was starting Ryan Yarborough over Floyd Turner in the slot receiver position for the injured James Roe.

"Ryan was with us last season and knows the system better," said Marchibroda.

Defensively, the Ravens didn't get much of a test from Chicago, which had only 13 yards rushing. The Ravens' front seven, including the reserves, dominated play, as the team stayed with basic packages. The trouble area at right cornerback wasn't challenged, even though third-year player DeRon Jenkins was slow breaking on two of three passes thrown his way and second-year cornerback John Williams was beaten several times.

"DeRon seemed a little hesitant at first, but played better as the game went on," said Marchibroda, who confirmed that top draft pick and cornerback Duane Starks would move into Williams' slot as the No. 2 left cornerback beginning today. "What I liked about our defense was how they pushed Chicago back when we had that turnover in the second quarter and we didn't let up at the end."

"It was important for us to get a win and establish ourselves early," said linebacker Ray Lewis, who had one of the team's five sacks. "Unity is the biggest thing with us right now. We can't ask for much more from the first preseason game."

Overall, though, the Ravens had several procedure penalties, threw three interceptions, had trouble converting on extra points and didn't have the long ball in their offense.

"Everything needs to be sharper, and we have to throw long a little bit," said Marchibroda. "We still have a long way to go, but it's always nice to win."

Camp competition

G; How the performances went at some key Ravens positions:

Left guard: Starter Ben Cavil held his own, but still needs to be more consistent. Barring any last-minute adjustments, he'll be the starter in the regular-season opener.

Center: Second-year player Jeff Mitchell made his first start. He pass blocks well, and has shown steady improvement as a run blocker. But he is still not in Wally Williams' class yet.

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