Receivers to catch attention next camp

Ravens notebook

Mediocre minicamp corps focus of Ravens' pass camp

May 08, 1999|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Consider it a midpoint between two minicamps. Before the Ravens convene for their second minicamp beginning on June 7, about half of the team will take part in a five-day passing camp, starting May 17.

Nearly all of the team's quarterbacks, receivers, tight ends, linebackers and defensive backs -- with the notable exception of recently converted safety Rod Woodson -- will be on hand. That week will allow coach Brian Billick to install more of his offense, while defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis refines his coverage schemes.

"It's still very much a teaching time. We want to absorb a little more of the offense," Billick said. "We'll install a couple of new things they haven't seen and we'll start to form some of the things they already know. We'll start to push them a little bit."

Billick especially wants to see improvement among his receiver corps, which wasn't overly impressive in last month's initial minicamp. Besides wide receiver Jermaine Lewis, tight end Lovett Purnell and rookie wide-out Brandon Stokley -- the fourth-round draft pick who ran crisp routes and showed excellent hands -- the group left a bit to be desired.

Second-year man Patrick Johnson had some trouble catching the ball and adjusting his routes. Veterans Floyd Turner and James Roe did not please Billick with their conditioning, as Turner showed up overweight and Roe's recurring hamstring problems flared up. Veteran Qadry Ismail, who signed with the Ravens during that minicamp, is just starting to get comfortable. He also has not caught a pass since 1996.

"The more reps I get, the better I'll be," said Johnson, who has worked in the slot and at wide receiver. "I know everything [the offensive coaches have] put in so far. I have to solidify my spot and develop into one of the guys."

Billick recently called Johnson his "Tasmanian Devil."

"I'd rather have a nickname than not," Johnson said. "[Billick] is right. I have to be more fluid and consistent with my routes. I have to learn that I don't have to use my speed all of the time. I have to get tuned in better with our quarterbacks."

Adjusting to new quarterbacks Scott Mitchell and Tony Banks, each of whom throws with more zip than former passers Jim Harbaugh and Eric Zeier, has been part of the problem.

"It took the guys a little while to understand the ball is getting there a little bit earlier. It's coming at them with a little more heat than it did last year," Billick said. "We're very explosive [at receiver], but right now we're not very consistent. If we have the same amount of drops and inconsistency at our June minicamp, I'll be a little more concerned."

The numbers game

The Ravens' roster, which numbers 83, will not be trimmed to 53 for another four months. Most likely, there will be room for only five receivers.

Lewis, Ismail, Johnson and Stokley appear to be locks. Under that scenario -- and assuming the Ravens do not add another receiver after June 1 -- Turner and Roe could end up fighting for the final spot in training camp.

Another scenario has the Ravens grabbing Florida State star Peter Warrick, who is rumored to be leaning toward entering the NFL supplemental draft in July. Warrick averaged 20.2 yards on 61 receptions and caught 13 touchdowns for the Seminoles as a junior last year.

And then there's free agent Kendrick Nord, who might be the best pure athlete of the bunch and, at the least, is headed for the developmental squad.

Nord, 6 feet 2, 210 pounds, originally signed in 1996 with Philadelphia as an undrafted free-agent quarterback out of Grambling. After the Eagles cut him, he spent 1997 as a backup quarterback with Hamilton in the Canadian Football League, then converted to receiver last year with Iowa of the Arena Football League.

"Nord is the wild card. He could come along and give us something on special teams that James and Floyd can't even think about doing," Billick said. "If [Nord] can run down the field and hit people [on special teams] like [receiver] Jake Reed did for us for his first two years in Minnesota, then there's our fifth guy."

Brownout

Only five players remain from the cast of Cleveland Browns that moved here in 1996. They are defensive end Rob Burnett, safety Stevon Moore, defensive tackle Larry Webster, kicker Matt Stover and reserve safety Bennie Thompson.

Only Moore, whose contract runs through 2000, is signed beyond the 1999 season. But that doesn't mean he'll be around that long. The Ravens already have replaced Moore at strong safety with three-year veteran Kim Herring.

They also made Moore available to Cleveland in the expansion draft. And they have talked to Moore about taking a pay cut. He is set to earn $1 million in 1999.

Pub Date: 5/08/99

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