For Boulware, decline in statistics does not add up to down year Marchibroda not optimistic about WR Jackson starting

Ravens notebook

October 16, 1998|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

Ravens strong side linebacker Peter Boulware's statistics may be down, but his performance level is up, according to defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis.

Boulware hasn't had the impressive numbers of a year ago when he finished with 66 tackles, including 11.5 sacks, tops among rookies and third in the American Football Conference. But he may be a better all-round linebacker than a year ago when he was named the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Boulware is tied for fourth on the team in tackles with 25 and second in sacks with 3.5. Defensive end Michael McCrary leads the team in sacks with 6.5, but at least two of his were a result of pressurefrom Boulware.

There is one major difference from Boulware compared with a year ago. Opposing teams now know he is in the starting lineup.

"At this point last year, I was fresh on the scene," said Boulware, who was the fourth player selected overall in the 1997 draft. "I could just outrun tackles because no one was concerned about me. But people know I'm there. They put a tight end in front of me or have a running back come over to chip me and slow me down. I'm learning a lot of different things.

"Last year I was free, but now I'm playing with better technique as far as staying within our defense. I think I'm playing the run better and I can cover better. I'm not as productive as far as numbers are concerned, but I'm going to have a breakout game. I've had some pressures, but people don't really see that. Coaches do, but people usually just care about sacks. But if I help our defense to make a play, then that's good, too."

Said Lewis: "People didn't know what to expect from him last year. Now, they are paying more attention to him on third down. He has had to adjust and has learned the game is more physical than flat speed. He is a better all-around linebacker than last year."

Jackson unlikely to start

Both starting receiver Michael Jackson (strained groin) and middle linebacker Ray Lewis (dislocated elbow) practiced yesterday, but Jackson worked with the second team behind Floyd Turner.

Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda was still optimistic about Lewis starting Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but was less hopeful about Jackson.

"It's hard to start a guy who has missed two days of practice," said Marchibroda about Jackson. "He says he still has some minor pain."

Jackson said: "The injury is coming along slowly. My mentality is to play Sunday."

Ofodile to be activated

Because starter Eric Green has a ruptured air sac in his lung, third-string tight end A. J. Ofodile is expected to be activated for the first time this season in Sunday's game.

It will be Ofodile's first opportunity to shine since preseason, when he led the Ravens in receptions with 12. Ofodile should get some playing time on special teams even though he didn't seem to make special teams' coach Scott O'Brien happy in practice earlier this week.

"We only have one tight end around, so I'm assured of a spot," said Ofodile, 6 feet 6, 260 pounds. "I'm real excited and hopefully I'll get a chance to play even though I'm still a backup."

Jenkins accentuates positive

For two weeks, Ravens starting cornerback DeRon Jenkins was maligned after he gave up several passes to Cincinnati Bengals receiver Carl Pickens, including a 67-yard touchdown.

But Jenkins responded with a solid effort against the Tennessee Oilers on Sunday, and there were no questions this week about him being replaced by No. 1 draft pick Duane Starks.

"I thought I played pretty decent even though I got a pretty bad call against me," said Jenkins.

Jenkins, in his third season, said he tuned out all the negative words from the media last week.

"You've got to tune it out, whether it's good or bad," said Jenkins. "Because if you don't, sooner or later you start to believe. It was difficult to do that at first because in college you didn't get a lot of negative publicity. But in the NFL, I don't know if they're more critical or less tolerant or what, but you have to become immune to the publicity, whether it's good or bad."

Mitchell-Steed rematch

It's time for Jeff Mitchell vs. Joel Steed II.

The last time Mitchell, the Ravens' second-year center, faced Steed, the Steelers' Pro Bowl nose guard, Mitchell was making ** his first career start in the season opener on Sept. 6 at the Ravens' new stadium.

Mitchell held Steed to one tackle, but Pittsburgh won, 20-13.

"I learned a lot from that game, that I need to stay low and not get overextended," said Mitchell. "He has great quickness and, actually, I don't think they involve him enough because he has the ability to create a lot of havoc on defense.

"But I think our team is ready, and we have a good game plan for them."

McCloud special again

With Ray Lewis about to return as the Ravens' starting middle linebacker, replacement Tyrus McCloud is about to return to his primary role on special teams.

McCloud, in his second season, started out slowly, but gradually has made progress filling in for Lewis during the last 11 quarters.

"I think I did well. I did some good things and other things you learn from experience," said McCloud, who had 21 tackles in Lewis' absence. "I consider myself a quick learner, and I firmly believe I got better even though I was still learning our defense as well as different offensive schemes."

Pub Date: 10/16/98

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