Report card

November 12, 1999|By Mike Preston

Quarterback

Both starting quarterbacks Scott Mitchell and Stoney Case were failures. Coach Brian Billick underestimated the need to have better skilled players around the immobile Mitchell, and Case is no better than a backup. Billick made a mistake by not playing Banks after Mitchell was demoted, and unless Banks becomes totally inept, he should be the starter for the rest of the season. -- D

Running backs

Despite teams crowding the line of scrimmage, running back Errict Rhett continues to be effective because of his punishing running style. The Ravens may want to work Priest Holmes or Jay Graham into the game a little more. It would also add a dimension to the offense and give opposing defenses something else to be concerned about. Fullback Chuck Evans has lived up to expectations as an outstanding lead blocker. -- B

Receivers

Nothing special here. The group of Justin Armour, Qadry Ismail and Jermaine Lewis are catching the ball when thrown to them, but none has that burst to pull away from defenders. The bottom line is that they are average receivers at best. The Ravens also are getting very little out of the tight end position as far as pass catching. -- C-

Offensive line

When the unit is healthy, they have played reasonably well, especially run blocking. Center Jeff Mitchell, right guard Jeff Blackshear and left tackle Jonathan Ogden have been consistent even though Ogden was bothered by a neck injury. Keep an eye on Mitchell, because his performance fell off at the end of last season and left guard Everett Lindsay's play has dropped off slightly from the first four games. -- C

Defensive line

Defensive end Rob Burnett is having his best season in recent years and has been the most consistent player on the unit. Tackles Tony Siragusa and Larry Webster have taken on double teams for Ray Lewis, but made the tackle when they have been single blocked because of their hustle. Right end Michael McCrary has only four sacks, but could easily have three more. He's still bothered by the knee injury from last season. Reserve defensive tackle Lional Dalton has played well at times, but needs to get in better physical condition. -- B

Linebackers

Middle linebacker Ray Lewis may be having his best season with 111 tackles after eight games. He showed a lot of courage last week playing against Cleveland with a knee injury. Strong-side linebacker Peter Boulware's shoulder pops out several times a game, but he still has 32 tackles and is one of the league's top pass rushers. The shoulder has forced him to use more finesse than strength this season and he has handled it well. Weak-side linebacker Jamie Sharper is the team's most improved player and his play gives the unit elite status. Sharper has played the run as well as Lewis or Boulware. -- A

Defensive backs

Safeties Kim Herring and Rod Woodson have made steady progress, but the team would like more physical play out of Herring. In the future, the Ravens also want to get a safety who is a heavy hitter. Second-year cornerback Duane Starks, who is lethargic in practice and meetings, is ready to become a force again after being benched earlier in the season. Rookie and top draft pick Chris McAlister has been the best performer in the secondary while fellow starting cornerback DeRon Jenkins has been unspectacular, but steady. -- C+

Special teams

Place-kicker Matt Stover seems to have ironed out his short distance on kickoffs, but is still questionable on field goals. Punter Kyle Richardson is having a great season and is the Ravens' top offensive weapon. The coverage units have performed well in the last four games, but the punt return unit, particularly blocking, has been atrocious for returner Jermaine Lewis. Bennie Thompson leads in tackles with 14. -- C+

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