Ravens to seek higher plane Unlike Bears, Jets may offer '98 clues

August 15, 1998|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

The euphoria surrounding their first night at their new stadium has dissipated. The hapless Chicago Bears are gone. And after following an impressive, preseason-opening victory with a week of lackluster practices in the dog days of training camp, the Ravens sense a serious test awaits them.

Sure, it's still only the preseason. But today's 5 p.m. contest against the New York Jets at Giants Stadium should reveal more tangible hints about the promise of 1998.

Unlike the Bears, who seem destined for the NFC Central cellar, the Jets are a comer. They improved from a 1-15 laughingstock to a 9-7 playoff contender a year ago. Under coach Bill Parcells, the architect of that turnaround, the Jets are one victory into the preseason and acting like they will be playing football come January.

"This is the perfect test for us at this time," Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda said. "We're meeting a good football team that feels very good about itself. It's their first home game and they'll be ready.

"We dominated the Bears right off the bat, and the Bears never got on track. That's not going to happen against the Jets. But our first concern is that we're ready."

For starters, the Ravens hope they are ready to expand on an offensive performance against Chicago that gave fans a glimpse of the philosophy that will guide their attack this fall.

Last week, the Ravens quickly established a bruising ground game with tailback Jay Graham and fullback Roosevelt Potts, who were complemented nicely by tailback Errict Rhett and fullback Kenyon Cotton. Mixing in a couple of big-gain scrambles by quarterback Jim Harbaugh, they rolled up 197 rushing yards.

The yards figure to be more hard-earned today, on the ground and in the air. The Ravens pecked away effectively with short- and medium-range passes against the Bears.

Harbaugh and backup Eric Zeier probably will be forced to play some long ball with receivers like Michael Jackson, Jermaine Lewis, Patrick Johnson and Ryan Yarborough, who has moved ahead of Floyd Turner in the battle for the No. 3 receiver job.

"We took whatever we wanted from Chicago, and that's not going to happen this time," left offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden said.

Besides the obstacles the Jets present with such defensive linemen as right tackle Ernie Logan and ends Rick Lyle and Anthony Pleasant -- both former Ravens -- and such linebackers as Mo Lewis and James Farrior, the Ravens might not be at full power on offense.

Right tackle Orlando Brown, bothered by a sore right ankle, will sit out tonight and backup James Atkins will start in his place, while second-year left guard Ben Cavil and center Jeff Mitchell, playing in his second pro game, are in for some tough going. Potts is another question mark with a sore knee. He might be replaced by Cotton.

The most interesting tests will play out on defense, where the Ravens' starting group will get a first-half look at former Baltimore quarterback Vinny Testaverde, the subject of some preseason controversy. Although Parcells is standing by Glenn Foley as his starter, he has decided to start Testaverde to see how he fares against the Ravens' first unit.

"Vinny or Foley, it doesn't matter," middle linebacker Ray Lewis said. "A quarterback is a quarterback. Our job is to get to him."

First, the Ravens must contain running back Curtis Martin and force Testaverde into obvious passing situations. Then, they hope to rattle him with pass rushers like ends Michael McCrary and Rob Burnett and outside linebacker Peter Boulware.

Since both teams face each other in the second week of the regular season, the Ravens might not show too many zone coverages and blitzes against Testaverde and Foley today.

Either way, the microscope will be on the Ravens' secondary. Other than cornerback Rod Woodson, in his first season here, the Ravens are depending on kids to lead them in the backfield.

Second-year strong safety Ralph Staten replaces the injured Stevon Moore and will line up next to free safety Kim Herring, another second-year player. At the other corner, third-year man DeRon Jenkins' attempt to hold off rookie Duane Starks begins in earnest. Look for Testaverde and Foley to throw Jenkins' way early and often.

"That's going to happen no matter who we're playing," Marchibroda said. "DeRon started off a little slow, but came back last week. Chicago didn't totally test him, but he's going to be tested before long. He has to make improvements every week. (( I'm anxious to see Duane play."

Ravens today

Opponent: New York Jets

Site: Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.

When: 5 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)

Latest line: Jets by 5 1/2


To keep an eye on

1.) The Vinny factor. Will Testaverde, who frustrated fans, coaches and teammates with his knack for the ill-timed mistake, reach regular-season form by rewarding his former team in August?

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