It goes from bad to worse for J. Lewis

Billick has choice words for receiver after dropped passes, lapses for penalties

Jaguars 6, Ravens 3

November 15, 1999|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- After Jermaine Lewis had extended a perplexing season with probably the worst performance of his four-year professional career, he was left staring vacantly into his locker.

And minutes after a 6-3 loss to the Jaguars, a game in which Lewis committed a series of glaring blunders, coach Brian Billick fired a blistering salvo in Lewis' direction.

Lewis caught three passes for 13 yards in another ho-hum showing in 1999. He is now nine games into the season and still in search of his first touchdown.

He has a total of 18 catches for 158 yards for the year. In 1998, he totaled 784 yards; in 1997, he had 648.

A year ago, he averaged an amazing 57.6 yards on eight touchdowns. His longest play from scrimmage this year has gone for 28.

What in the name of big plays is the problem? Has Lewis lost whatever shred of confidence he had before yesterday's debacle? Has Billick failed to find a niche in his West Coast offense for the guy blessed with some of the fastest feet in the league? Why can't Lewis shake the doldrums loose with a big game?

Billick cut off a reporter abruptly and recounted Lewis' day with an angry outburst.

"My answer to getting Jermaine Lewis into the offense is, `I have no comment.' I don't want to hear the question. I'm not going to answer it anymore," Billick said. "Jermaine has to take responsibility for it. I have to take responsibility for it.

"We can't drop passes. We can't run the wrong route. We can't not know where to line up. We can't jump offside. I evidently can't find a way to get him consistently in the offense. From this point on, any question about Jermaine Lewis is `no comment.' "

Besides his ineffectiveness from the line of scrimmage, Lewis once again got little help from his punt return unit, which failed to spring him on a day when field position was critical.

Jacksonville punter Bryan Barker repeatedly kicked away from Lewis and out of bounds. Lewis managed just 14 yards on four punt returns.

Lewis also melted down in front of a huge crowd at ALLTEL Stadium and appeared stunned in the post-game locker room, minutes after his season had produced another thud.

"I really want to get in the end zone," Lewis said. "I'm trying extra hard, and things are just not going my way."

Except for grabbing Tony Banks' pass for a 10-yard gain on a third-and-one situation during the Ravens' lone scoring drive late in the first half, nothing went right for Lewis.

His problems started in the second quarter when he let a Banks pass slip through his outstretched hands on a play that would have gone for a Ravens' first down.

That was merely a warm-up for a second-half implosion. In the last minute of the third quarter, Lewis came out of a break, turned and dropped a pass that hit him squarely in the hands.

But it was his mental lapse on back-to-back plays that infuriated Billick the most.

The Ravens, trailing 6-3, had taken over on their 10 with 13: 05 left in the game. On second-and-six, Lewis jumped offside, pushing the offense back to the 9. And when he mistakenly went in motion before the next play, Banks called time.

Billick then lit into Lewis on the sideline.

"The offsides, I was going to come off [the ball] hard," said Lewis, who said he was supposed to go deep on the play. "I was trying too hard to make a play, and I jumped offsides."

As for the next error, Lewis said, "I went in motion across the formation when I should have stayed on one side. I messed up, and I kind of got down on myself."

Lewis hinted that he has had trouble grasping Billick's offense. Instead of lining up primarily as a slot receiver -- the way he did in the previous two years under former coach Ted Marchibroda -- Lewis has bounced among many spots under Billick.

He has lined up at all three receiver positions, as well as in the offensive backfield. Lewis even has ended up as a pass blocker on occasion.

"I'm just not as comfortable as I was last year," Lewis said. "But as a professional, you've got to get over it and deal with it."

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