Final Ravens report card

December 29, 1998|By Mike Preston

Quarterbacks

Jim Harbaugh never lived up to expectations. He suffered setbacks early in the season with injuries to his right (throwing) hand and elbow, but once he returned, he still didn't play with consistency in the second half of the season. Harbaugh never claimed leadership of the team, and his below-average arm strength limited the passing game. Backup Eric Zeier didn't display the mobility he had in college and still had problems feeling pressure and stepping up in the pocket. The Ravens need to find a franchise quarterback, or at least a prospect, in the off-season. -- C-

Running backs

Priest Holmes became the first 1,000-yard rusher in Ravens history, but most of his yards came against bad defensive teams. Holmes has potential, but he still might not be an every-play back. Fullback Roosevelt Potts was inconsistent most the year. He stayed in the lineup because he was brought in by coach Ted Marchibroda. Potts should have been on the bench by midseason. -- C-

Offensive line

This group, along with the defensive line, was supposed to carry the team, but instead was the most disappointing unit. Center Wally Williams started slowly after a six-week holdout, but played solidly after the first four games. Right tackle Orlando Brown was the biggest failure. Brown can't play with distractions, and he was bothered by possible contract negotiations doing this off-season. Look for him to have a great year next season wherever he plays. Left tackle Jonathan Ogden was named to the Pro Bowl, but even he slipped from a year ago because he doesn't have the greatest work ethic. The most consistent performer was right guard Jeff Blackshear, who played through great pain at the end of the season. -- D

Receivers

Tight end Eric Green started off strong but was never quite the same after he punctured his lung midway in the season. Like Ogden, he needs to improve his work ethic. Receiver Michael Jackson went through the season without a touchdown catch, partly because the Ravens didn't work him into the game plan and partly because he pouted about Jermaine Lewis getting too many passes. Look for Jackson to find a new home during the off-season and for Lewis to keep getting more balls thrown his way next season. Floyd Turner had a good season, but the Ravens waited too long to get him into the starting lineup. Rookie Patrick Johnson had a strong training camp but faded around midseason. He needs to work on hand placement when balls are thrown into his body. -- C+

Defensive line

Tackle James Jones and end Michael McCrary had great seasons, with McCrary being named to the Pro Bowl. Tackle Tony Siragusa played extremely well in the first three quarters of the season, but was bothered by injuries down the stretch. End Rob Burnett had an average season and sometimes disappeared during games. It will be interesting to see what the Ravens do with Burnett during the off-season. A change of scenery might prolong his career. -- B+

Linebackers

Ray Lewis finished as the team's leading tackler for the third straight year and will make his second straight Pro Bowl appearance. At times, though, he free-lanced a little too much without reading his keys. Strong-side linebacker Peter Boulware didn't have as many sacks as last season, but he was just as effective with numerous hurries. He needs to play the run better. Weak-side linebacker Jamie Sharper played well at times, but seemed to be bothered by defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis' scheme. Now that Lewis is gone, it will be interesting to see if Sharper plays better. -- B-

Secondary

Cornerback Rod Woodson played well through the midway point of the season, but slowed down at the end of the year. Cornerback Duane Starks had a typical rookie year, but he has the talent to be a better-than-average cover player. He has to realize that in the NFL he can't gamble like he did in college and try to recover with speed because most receivers can run in this league. Look for the Ravens to redo safety Stevon Moore's contract if he is going to stay with the team for another year. Moore had a poor season. Kim Herring made progress before separating his shoulder, but he has to play better in pass coverage. -- C

Special teams

The special teams were horrendous for nearly three quarters of the season. Despite being ranked high in a lot of categories, they hurt the team with bad snaps, botched holds, missed field-goal attempts and penalties. Only after Marchibroda threatened to cut players did they improve down the stretch. Kicker Matt Stover was consistent and punter Kyle Richardson played well as the season went on. The star of the units, though, was Bennie Thompson, who made the Pro Bowl. -- C

Pub Date: 12/29/98

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