Ravens get a line on defensive front

Adams, Dalton sub for Webster, Siragusa

April 30, 2000|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

With one day left in minicamp, what's been more intriguing: the way the Ravens' defensive tackles have stuffed the gaps or filled the starting holes?

The NFL's second-ranked defense in 1999 has had to improvise its starting front line this past month, working Sam Adams and Lional Dalton in place of suspended Larry Webster and holdout Tony Siragusa.

It's that unwritten rule of minicamp, that one player's absence equals another's opportunity. And what the Ravens lost in experience and wisdom, they appear to have gained in youth and quickness.

So although this weekend really amounts to a walkthrough, Adams and Dalton have acknowledged that the extra time has meshed them as a tandem.

"We've been working good together," said Dalton, whose locker is side-by-side with Adams'. "We work off each other and take chances. We do little things that we couldn't do because the older guys are stuck in their ways. I'm just having fun."

Defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis referred to Adams and Dalton as a more athletic pair and said: "They've done a good job for what you can evaluate defensive linemen going without pads. They know what to do, being in the right spot and moving their feet."

The Ravens, who allowed an AFC-low 76.9 yards rushing per game, were forced to replace their 30-something tackles.

First, Webster was suspended a month ago for violation of the league's alcohol and substance abuse policy. The team answered that problem by signing Adams, a free-agent from Seattle, just hours before the draft and plugging a void with a potential Pro Bowl performer.

Then, Siragusa refused to attend mandatory minicamp yesterday and today, despite being under contract. He wants a raise to his current deal that would pay him $1.5 million in the final year.

That moved Dalton, a third-year backup, right beside Adams.

"I'm taking advantage of this opportunity," said Dalton, who was surprised Siragusa didn't report. "We don't know if Tony's going to be back or not, but every rep I get with first string is a good rep."

Dalton, 25, played in every game last season, starting twice when Siragusa injured his knee in late September, and recorded 32 tackles. He provides a quicker burst upfield, yet admits to lacking the same in-depth knowledge of opposing offenses as Siragusa.

Adams, 26, also presents a different element as the left tackle. While Webster was known more as a banger, the 297-pound Adams accomplishes his job with mobility.

"I'm very impressed," said defensive end Rob Burnett, who shares the left side with Adams. "When you first see him, it's like: That's a big dude. But he's very athletic, which is very rare for someone his size. He seems to have his hips and feet coordinated like that of a smaller guy."

Despite playing his entire six-year NFL career in Seattle, Adams doesn't expect a major learning curve to a different system.

The Ravens ask their tackles to control the gaps, keeping offensive linemen off the linebackers, and then make plays. For Adams, it's just a matter of getting used to different terminology, different drills.

By his second day in minicamp, Adams looked to have found his niche already in the middle with Dalton.

"[Dalton] has a lot of natural ability and positive upside to him," Adams said. "You have to know the person next to you, so you fit in and it's a natural fit that you do. The more you know the person next to you, the more comfortable you are and the better you play."

It's a situation that suits Dalton as well.

"If I start, I'd be most happy," Dalton said. "But if Goose comes and we fight for the starting spot, I'm just going to keep playing hard. Whatever happens, happens."

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