Without fanfare, Faulk makes mark for Colts Running back again excels despite team's 2-9 season

Ravens notebook

November 27, 1998|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Mike Preston contributed to this article.

He is easily lost amid his team's 2-9 record and the fanfare that has followed top draft pick and rookie quarterback Peyton Manning, but Indianapolis running back Marshall Faulk is no secret to the Ravens or the rest of the NFL.

Were Faulk part of a more successful team, the fifth-year veteran would be earning serious mention as an Offensive Player of the Year candidate. A two-time Pro Bowl player, Faulk is on his way to his best season since he joined the Colts as the second overall draft pick in 1994 out of San Diego State.

How much has Faulk, 5 feet 10, 211 pounds, affected the Indianapolis offense? He is the offense. With 1,556 combined yards from the line of scrimmage, Faulk has accounted for 46.4 percent of the Colts' net attack.

Only O. J. Simpson accounted for a higher percentage of yardage in a season. As a running back in 1973, Simpson produced 47.9 percent of the Buffalo Bills' offense.

Although Faulk has scored only four touchdowns in 1998, he ranks sixth in the AFC in rushing, with 845 yards on 231 attempts (fourth in the AFC), for a 3.7-yard average. He leads the NFL with 62 receptions for 711 yards (11.5-yard average).

"We know what this guy is about. He's going to create problems at times. He's very elusive, very explosive," Ravens strong safety Stevon Moore said about Faulk. "[The Colts] like to create mismatches with him on a linebacker or a safety. You know the ball is going to him.

"All great runners have good vision," Moore said. "If you try to finesse [Faulk], you stand to get beat on a big play. You've got to attack him, and you've got to have more than one guy making the play. You've got to throw marbles [gang tackle] at him."

Except for a 1996 season in which he was hampered by an injured toe, Faulk has been a model of running and receiving consistency with the Colts. He has caught at least one pass in every game of his career. As a rookie, Faulk recorded 1,804 yards of total offense. He added 1,553 all-purpose yards in 1995 and 1,525 last year.

One of the Ravens' strengths all year has been the pursuit speed of linebackers Ray Lewis, Peter Boulware and Jamie Sharper. They'll need to be strong again in that area against Faulk, an outstanding cutback runner.

Paying returns

The Ravens started to ease veteran safety Corey Harris into a kick-return role last month, and Harris has responded by taking the team lead in kick-return yardage.

Harris, who has taken over at free safety for the injured Kim Herring, leads the Ravens in returns (15) and yardage (358). He is averaging 23.9 yards per return, and has come close several times in recent weeks to breaking off a touchdown. His longest return is 52 yards.

Harris broke into the league with Houston and Green Bay as a return man in 1992.

"I'm one of those guys who loves to run back kickoffs," Harris said. "If you get a guy that loves to do it, and you can trust the other 10 guys who are blocking for you, you can't help but become a decent returner. It's just a matter of time before good things start happening.

"We've put in a lot of extra time working on it in the last few weeks. If we don't break one [for a touchdown] by the end of the year, I'd be surprised."

Jackson doubtful

Wide receiver Michael Jackson, initially listed as questionable with a sprained foot, has been downgraded to doubtful for Sunday's game against the Indianapolis Colts. Neither Jackson nor cornerback Rod Woodson (flu) practiced with the team yesterday.

Pub Date: 11/27/98

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