Ravens-Bengals key matchup

November 21, 1999|By Gary Lambrecht

CB DeRon Jenkins vs. WR Carl Pickens

He is fresh off one of the most uplifting performances of his four-year career, in which he kept the Jacksonville Jaguars' Jimmy Smith out of the end zone and did not allow the Pro Bowl receiver to abuse him as he had in years past.

Next up for Ravens cornerback DeRon Jenkins is the Cincinnati Bengals' Carl Pickens, who has had his good days against Jenkins and pretty much everyone else around the NFL.

It was only 14 months ago that Pickens, using his familiar arsenal, which blends quickness, leaping ability, push-off moves and some trash talk to boot, burned Jenkins for two scores in a Ravens victory.

Jenkins appears to have an advantage for the first time. Not only is he playing the best football of his career, but also Pickens has slipped noticeably from his Pro Bowl form, after missing all of training camp, threatening to sit out the year over a contract dispute, then changing his mind by signing a five-year, $23.5 million deal.

With only 36 receptions for 420 yards and three touchdowns through 10 games, Pickens, 6 feet 2, 206 pounds, is headed for a mediocre season by his standards. Not that Jenkins is anticipating an easy day.

"You have to know it's going to be a challenge every week, and this one is no different," Jenkins said. "Obviously, [Pickens] has very good size, and he's a very physical receiver. And he's a veteran. He'll show you the veteran moves and do the veteran things to get open."

Four times since 1994, Pickens has caught 1,000 yards worth of passes. He has 60 career touchdown receptions. And he and quarterback Jeff Blake have done some great things together in the recent past. In 1995, they each started the Pro Bowl.

"They have that connection," Jenkins said of Blake and Pickens. "[Pickens] will try to attack any cornerback wherever he thinks there's a weakness. If he thinks he can outrun you, he'll do that. If he thinks he can out-physical you, he'll do that. I expect him to try both [today]. He goes out and tries to dominate."

Ravens coach Brian Billick said Jenkins and the rest of the Ravens' cornerbacks will be tested deep, unlike last week's Jacksonville game, when the Jaguars settled for throwing underneath almost exclusively.

"I would think so," Billick said. "To think that they're going to get a 10- or 12-play scoring drive going, with the way our defense is playing, would be ambitious."

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