There's plenty of talent in reserve at linebacker


Some backups probably could start for other teams

September 01, 1999|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

It may only be three games into the preseason, but it's evident that the Ravens have a lot of depth at linebacker and that some of the reserves could possibly be starters for other teams in the National Football League.

The Ravens already have two starters who were named to the AFC Pro Bowl squad last year in middle linebacker Ray Lewis and strong-side linebacker Peter Boulware. But with Boulware limited because of a shoulder injury, reserve Cornell Brown has played well in his spot throughout the preseason as has Tyrus McCloud when he has substituted for Lewis.

Lewis is second on the team in tackles during the preseason (13), trailing only Chris McAlister (14). McCloud is third with 12 and Brown is tied for fourth with weak-side linebacker Jamie Sharper at 10.

Defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis praised Sharper, who made a couple of short-yardage stops Saturday against the Carolina Panthers. Sharper is the third starter along with Boulware and Ray Lewis.

"I thought Jamie played well," said Marvin Lewis. "He was very physical and productive in most of his assignments.

"Tyrus also played well. We have a lot of guys who have been in the system for a couple of years now even though they occasionally slip down into that `woe is me as a reserve' syndrome. It wouldn't surprise me if they [McCloud and Brown] could start for other teams. They all have strengths and weaknesses, pluses and minuses, but there might be lesser starters out there."

Boulware on the move

When Boulware makes his first start of the season Friday against the New York Giants, he'll be in familiar, yet unfamiliar, territory. He'll play the strong side on running situations, but the Ravens have been moving him around on passing downs.

The Ravens want to get the best matchups for one of the team's best pass rushers.

"I'm moving around more than last year and it helps me out," said Boulware. "I get to go against different blockers, sometimes against a running back. It gives me a chance to make more plays. "

Offensive line on upswing

The offensive line had its problems with complacency at times in training camp, but the unit has made a lot of progress in preseason games.

After three games, the Ravens have rushed for 254 yards on 76 attempts, but 132 came last week against the Panthers. The Ravens had 80 yards rushing on 23 attempts against the Atlanta Falcons in game No. 2.

"We're taking more reps and still learning," said right guard Jeff Blackshear. "With all the calls there are, we're doing well as far as protection and blocking for the run. We're making good reads and staying on blocks."

Blackshear said the new offensive system helps compared to the one used last year.

"We're an attack offense compared to the first couple of years," said Blackshear. "Last year our offense adjusted to the defense. This year defenses are adjusting to our offense."

Richardson not content

Punter Kyle Richardson was under pressure to make the team last season, but he is currently the only punter left on the roster.

Richardson beat out Greg Montgomery last season. Thus far in the preseason he has averaged 45.2 yards with a net of 39.2. Richardson still isn't satisfied.

"As opposed to last year, I'm starting to look at the whole picture," said Richardson. "I'm not worried about my job, if I'm going to be on the team or not. I don't have to look to the next preseason game to see if I'm going to be on the team.

"As far as punting, I'm not where I want to be. I've done some good things and I'm close to where I want to get, too. In this league, you have got to make every punt count."

Tailgating switch

No post-game tailgating will be allowed Friday because of the Orioles-Indians game that night at Oriole Park. Fans will be asked to leave the parking lot as soon as possible. Some Park-and-Ride lots will be unavailable for the game. The unavailable lots are Anne Arundel Community College, UMBC, MVA, Poly/Western and Carney. The suggested relocation lots are Severna Park, Southwest, Brooklyn, Metro subway and Rosedale.

Et cetera

Left guard James Atkins (hamstring) and defensive tackle Tony Siragusa (swollen knee) did not practice yesterday. The Ravens cut veteran wide receiver Webster Slaughter yesterday. Slaughter, a 13-year pro, signed with the Ravens on June 8. He had three receptions for 11 yards in the preseason. He still expects to remain in the area for six months because of personal commitments to the community instead of flying back to his home in Stockton, Calif.

Next for Ravens

Preseason opponent: New York Giants

Site: PSINet Stadium

When: Friday, noon

TV/Radio: Tape delay at 1: 30 p.m. on Ch. 13/live on WJFK (1300 AM) and WLIF (101.9 FM)

Line: Ravens by 1 1/2 Pub Date: 9/01/99

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