Shredded Jets are expected to rebound Troubles against 49ers, preseason loss to Ravens sure to stoke team's fire


September 11, 1998|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

After the New York Jets gave up 557 yards in their 36-30, overtime loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the season opener last weekend, Ravens offensive players expect the Jets to have a different attitude for their game Sunday in East Rutherford, N.J.

Former Cleveland Browns head coach Bill Belichick is Jets defensive coordinator.

"I know they caught it all the way home on the plane and then in the meeting on Monday," said guard Wally Williams, one of the Ravens who played for Belichick in Cleveland.

"Bill has always been extremely defensive-minded," Ravens right tackle Orlando Brown said. "I'm pretty sure he didn't handle it well."

The Ravens are just as sure the Jets will come out fired up Sunday for their home opener. A year ago, the Ravens rushed for 159 yards on 35 attempts, but were stymied by the Jets on short-yardage situations. On first and second downs, the Jets crowded the line of scrimmage and brought their linebackers in close to neutralize the speed and power of the Ravens' guards.

The Jets also had their safeties close to the line of scrimmage.

"I'm pretty sure they will be playing us different than in preseason," said right guard Jeff Blackshear, referring to the Ravens' 33-0 win over the Jets. "Last year, they didn't want their linebackers in the same space with our guards. You had to count linebackers like they were defensive linemen. I'm pretty sure we'll get a lot of different fronts Sunday."

"Their linebackers like Pepper Johnson and Bryan Cox will be crowding the line of scrimmage," Brown said. "Bill also likes big safeties. He'll have everybody up tight."

Back in a snap

The pins have been removed from reserve tight end Brian Kinchen's thumb, and he'll probably return as the snapper on field goals and extra points Sunday. Last week, Harper Le Bel had trouble with the snaps that caused problems with two missed field-goal attempts and a botched punt that led to a Pittsburgh touchdown, which turned the game's momentum.

But Kinchen had seen his time diminishing long before the thumb injury in training camp.

"Whether I'm comfortable doesn't matter. Maybe I'm just so valuable that they don't want to hurt me," Kinchen said jokingly. "I've always seen this as my specialty. Maybe now I'm a legitimate backup."

According to Kinchen, holding and grabbing the football is no longer an issue.

"I hate to see us get beat on something that has been like clockwork around here," he said. "Me and [kicker] Matt [Stover] have been together for eight years. He knows me and he trusts me. I thought that was a given, but I hadn't done it [snapped] in three or four weeks. It just so happened it cost us points and possibly the game.

"Some things are gray in this league; some things are fact," Kinchen said. "Kickers and punters have percentages that measure their success. Snappers are either on target or they're not."

Richardson ready

Regardless of the quarterback situation, No. 3 Wally Richardson is closer to playing a down in the regular season than ever before. Richardson, in his second year, got some extensive playing time in the preseason.

"Yeah, I'm ready," Richardson said. "As you saw this past Sunday, guys were going down all over the place. With Jim [Harbaugh], it was just a freak accident. So you just have to be ready to play.

"The biggest thing is staying in the game while you're on the sideline. You have to replay the situation in your mind, seeing what you would have done. Right now, my heart is beating a little faster because I'm closer to playing. But it's good to have a little nervousness going into a game."

Big Mac vs. Big Zeus

If Brown had been in St. Louis and had caught Mark McGwire's 62nd home run, he said he wouldn't have given the ball back.

"No way. He has a million dollars easy," said Brown, nicknamed Zeus. "He would have to come out of his pocket to get that ball back."

Last year when the Ravens played the Jets, Brown and Williams were involved in a league investigation of tampering charges against Belichick and Scott Piolo, Jets director of pro personnel.

"Nah, Bill hasn't called me this week," said Brown, smiling. "We're still friends, but he knows this week he is the enemy. He knows how I feel about people I play against."

Special problems

The Ravens weren't the only team to have special teams problems last week. The Jets were just as bad. New York mishandled two kickoffs and averaged fewer than 40 yards a punt.

When the Ravens beat the Jets in preseason, a lot of the blame went to New York's special teams.

"Unfortunately, we don't have the same nucleus of players that we had last year," Jets coach Bill Parcells said. "There are just some things we need to address. With the Ravens, they've had a few plays, but they have been consistent in those areas. When you have someone like Bennie Thompson, I guess you're pretty well focused."

Not a big reach


The Ravens were criticized for taking University of Miami cornerback Duane Starks with the 10th pick in the draft, but Starks has been far from a "reach," as he points out.

Starks reported to training camp about two weeks late, but he made three great plays Sunday against the Steelers, including his first interception. Starks is currently the nickel back.

"I'm still learning, trying to be consistent," he said. "I'm about 90 percent comfortable with our defense, and I still need to get a couple more things down. That will come with more repetitions in practice. I got my legs back under me now. They kind of died last week."

Pub Date: 9/11/98

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