McCrary: Defense won't rest on laurels

Ravens notebook

After blowing big lead last week vs. Bengals, unit has something to prove

November 26, 1999|By Gary Lambrecht and Mike Preston | Gary Lambrecht and Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

Overconfident, or weakness exposed? That will be one of the major themes for the Ravens' No. 2-ranked defense entering Sunday's game against Jacksonville.

Defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis says his team wasn't talking a lot of trash after earning the No. 1 ranking a week ago, but was just overconfident.

That's a matter of semantics, but here's the bottom line: The Bengals lit up the Ravens for 348 total yards and had two long drives in the second half as the then-No. 1-ranked defense couldn't protect a 17-point lead. The inexperienced secondary was partially exposed, as well as some of weak safety Rod Woodson's free-lancing antics.

"The Bengals have an explosive team, a lot of weapons," said Ravens defensive end Michael McCrary. "They had a great game plan, and hit us with a lot of play-action even on third-and-inches situations. We played hard, but they caught us."

McCrary, though, has seen a lot of defenses fall in the second half of the season. He doesn't want that to happen with the Ravens. Again.

"We have to change history," said McCrary. "We don't plan on leveling off. Obviously, we've gotten better as a defensive unit over the years. Everyone on this unit takes a lot of pride in playing team defense."

Jacksonville seems primed to exploit the weaknesses Sunday that were exposed last week. The Jaguars, after managing just 132 yards of total offense against the Ravens, got untracked with their best offensive game of the year in last week's 41-23 rout of New Orleans.

Ravens coach Brian Billick chided Jacksonville coach Tom Coughlin for comments he made before the New Orleans game. In Billick's eyes, Coughlin seemed to slight the Ravens' defensive effort two weeks ago. The Ravens played in poor field position all day, yet surrendered only a pair of field goals.

"Their perspective seems to be it was strictly a matter of playing poorly," Billick said. "I guess our defense really didn't play that well. I'm sure that's not what [Coughlin] intended to say, but that's the way it came out. It's up to our defense to show that they played well, and that it wasn't a fluke."

Rumor time

With six games remaining in the regular season, it's time for the off-season trade rumors to begin, and the Ravens are already involved in one. Let's call it the Minnesota Connection Part II.

With Jeff George having success in Minnesota after replacing Randall Cunningham as quarterback, there is speculation that Billick might trade for Cunningham, his old pupil. The same speculation has the Vikings also offering receiver Jake Reed in a possible trade.

"Would I love to have Randall Cunningham? Yes. He would be a nice addition and very helpful to Tony Banks and Stoney Case," said Billick. "But am I going to offer a first-, second- or third-round pick for Randall? No.

"I think Randall can still play, but I don't know at this point in his career if he still wants to play. I also don't know if he can play 16 games, which is what we talked about last off-season with Warren Moon. I would like to get Tony and Stoney back in [both are free agents at the end of this season] before we talk about another free-agent quarterback.

"If Randall hits the free-agent market, I might take a look. Or if Denny Green wants to do me a favor and offer him to me for a fifth or sixth, I might consider it, but not for a one, two or three. Jake has had some health problems, and I wouldn't consider him a top-level receiver at this point in his career. But right now, this is all speculation. Stuff usually starts circulating about now, but we have had no conversations with Minnesota."

Mulitalo starts again

Rookie left guard Edwin Mulitalo is expected to make his third straight start Sunday against the Jaguars. Mulitalo played well in his debut, but got taught a few lessons last Sunday against Cincinnati.

Mulitalo, making the transition from college tackle to pro guard, expects to be educated every week for the remainder of the season.

"I think I had my rookie game against the Bengals," said Mulitalo. "I made some mistakes during that game. My pass protection was solid, but I have to bear down in the running game and get things right. As the weeks go on, I'll do some things right and some things wrong. I just want to make sure I do more things right."

Bracing for Taylor

Ravens weak-side linebacker Jamie Sharper, who is enjoying the best season of his three-year career and ranks second on the team with 88 tackles, would not mind if Jaguars running back Fred Taylor had to spend Sunday on the sideline.

Taylor, one of the more explosive backs in the league, has been bothered all year by a hamstring injury. He had returned from a two-game absence to produce 252 yards over two games, before aggravating the injury early against the Ravens. Taylor, listed as questionable for Sunday, has not played since Nov. 14.

Should Taylor start, Sharper will have to be -mindful of his superb cutback ability.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.