Ravens first-quarter report card

October 05, 1998|By Mike Preston

Running backs

Before anyone labels Priest Holmes the team's running back of the future, remember he has only produced big numbers in one game. There are 12 remaining. But he showed great acceleration and cutback ability in his start against the Bengals. However, don't forget Errict Rhett. Competition makes Rhett play harder, and he'll have an impact before the season is over. Jay Graham didn't perform up to coach Ted Marchibroda's expectations, but people should be aware that Graham is only in his second year and has started only four games. Fullback Roosevelt Potts has not lived up to Marchibroda's hopes, either, but may have made a statement against the Bengals with some crunching lead blocks. - C

Quarterbacks

Eric Zeier has shown that he is more than just a backup and will get a chance to prove he is the team's quarterback of the future. He still needs to be more aware of pressure in the pocket, but his decision-making and ability to throw the long ball have been above average. Even though Jim Harbaugh hasn't produced the numbers or victories expected because of injuries to his throwing hand and right elbow, he gets an A for class and for being a stand-up guy and not pointing fingers when he was demoted. - B

Receivers

Finally, in Game 4, the Ravens started to use outside receivers Jermaine Lewis and Michael Jackson. Lewis started slow in the opener, but has still been the team's game-breaker. Jackson has played well, but still needs to improve on using his hands when balls are thrown directly into his body. Tight end Eric Green also has delivered with some big receptions, especially on the underneath routes, but can elevate his game by being more aggressive on every play. -C+

Offensive linemen

It's hard to judge this group because it was limited by some conservative play-calling in the first three games. Left tackle Jonathan Ogden has been outstanding, and right guard Jeff Blackshear and right tackle Orlando Brown have been steady and extremely physical run-blockers. Center Jeff Mitchell has held his own despite being a first-year starter. Left guard Wally Williams has been slow coming around, but is now performing up to par. He still needs to cut down on penalties, especially deep in the opposition's territory. - C

Defensive linemen

Tackle Tony Siragusa is having his best season in recent years playing on healthy knees and having had a full year to digest the Ravens' system. Fellow tackle James Jones is one of the best technicians on the team, and both he and Siragusa have gotten a lot of penetration to disrupt the opposition's running game. Despite being undersized, end Michael McCrary is a fierce pass-rusher who takes as much pride in showing he can stop the run. Opposite end Rob Burnett has been consistent but needs to be more of a presence. - B

Linebackers

Before dislocating his left elbow against Jacksonville in Game 3, middle linebacker Ray Lewis hadn't dropped off one bit from last year's Pro Bowl season. Strong-side linebacker Peter Boulware also gives a high-level performance every week. Weak-side linebacker Jamie Sharper has played reasonably well. He turned in a dud effort against the Jaguars, but so did the rest of the team. Sharper is the kind of player the coaching staff will have to motivate in certain ways every three or four games. - C+

Defensive backs

Left cornerback Rod Woodson has played extremely well and has made big plays in every game. But the rest of the secondary has problems. Teams are picking on right cornerback DeRon Jenkins, and it will continue until Jenkins plays better or the Ravens go with top draft pick Duane Starks. Strong safety Stevon Moore is struggling. He is great on run support when he has to move straight ahead, but major surgery on both knees during the off-season has slowed his speed and lateral movement. Second-year player Ralph Staten hasn't progressed enough for him to replace Moore. Corey Harris has done an adequate job at free safety, but the Ravens miss Kim Herring, who went down in the first half of Game 2 with a dislocated left shoulder. Herring should return Sunday against the Oilers. - C-

Special teams

The Ravens seem to have straightened out kicker Matt Stover and punter Kyle Richardson. And Jermaine Lewis, with no apologies to Deion Sanders, is perhaps the best punt returner in the game. But the special teams nullify big plays with constant penalties. Almost every game, they have contributed in giving up a touchdown. - D+

Pub Date: 10/05/98

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