Backups give boost to Ravens

Brookins, Gregg deliver big plays in 38-9 win over Giants

Roster cut due tomorrow

First-team defense finishes preseason with no TDs allowed

September 01, 2001|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

In a meaningless game by starters' standards, running back Jason Brookins showed his hunger and defensive tackle Kelly Gregg delivered on desire.

Any remnants of the Super Bowl XXXV rematch quickly faded after the first quarter as these Ravens backups provided the lasting impression in yesterday's 38-9 victory over the New York Giants at a half-filled PSINet Stadium.

Brookins, who has heard the talk of the Ravens possibly adding another running back this weekend, responded with 112 yards and a touchdown. His 70-yard run sparked the Ravens' running attack, which had been crawling this preseason.

But the true survivor may have been Gregg, a teammate of Brookins' last year on the Ravens' practice squad. Scratching for one of the final roster spots, the husky lineman capitalized on every opportunity, catching an interception off a deflected pass, running a fumble back 19 yards for a touchdown and registering a sack.

The Ravens finished the preseason 1-2 and have to make their final roster cutdown to 53 by tomorrow. Their season opener is Sept. 9 against the Chicago Bears at PSINet Stadium.

"I'll do anything to stick around," said Gregg, whose previous claim to fame was a hit on Jamal Lewis that turned into a season-ending knee injury. "I'll work on the yard crew. I'll do whatever."

The Ravens relied heavily on the arm of starting quarterback Elvis Grbac and a stingy defense in the red zone to take a 10-9 lead into halftime. Then, in the second half, backup quarterback Chris Redman broke out of a preseason funk to turn the game into a rout.

Redman, who had failed to record a scoring drive in 11 series, was near perfect yesterday, completing 10 of 11 passes for 70 yards and two touchdowns. The third-round pick from a year ago was in command of the offense and decisive in the pocket.

The plan still is to keep Redman as the backup during the week to receive the second-most reps, but the Ravens likely will use Randall Cunningham as their first option on game days if Grbac goes down.

"I started to get down on myself, so I needed a real good one," Redman said. "So I stayed real focused and was ready to play. I think the whole offense came together and started to form some chemistry out there. It felt good to go out there and feel confident."

With the Ravens ahead 17-9 in the third quarter, Redman's first drive began at his own 4-yard line.

Redman, though, checked off on the second-down call, switching from a sweep to an inside run. After breaking through the hole untouched, Brookins kept his balance after safety Dwayne Patmon nearly tripped him up and rambled 70 yards before getting pushed out of bounds.

At that point, it was only the Ravens' second run over 9 yards this preseason and their first over 12.

"I knew it had the potential to be big because it was man-on-man and then it was just the safety," Brookins said. "It was going to be me or him. And I wouldn't dare lose to a safety."

Redman finished off that possession with a 9-yard touch pass to Jermaine Lewis in the back of the end zone to increase the lead to 24-9 with just under three minutes left in the third quarter.

Redman vented his frustration from the preseason on the next series, crushing Patmon on a block in the backfield. It sprang Brookins to the outside for 11 yards and eventually led to an 18-yard touchdown reception by Patrick Johnson.

"I think the other quarterbacks are mad at me," Redman said. "Now, they'll be expected to block a lot more."

On defense, Gregg seemed to be a magnet to the ball.

In the second quarter, Gregg watched a pass deflect off a Giants lineman and land in his hands. The Ravens converted that turnover into Matt Stover's 45-yard field goal.

Then, Gregg capped the scoring early in the fourth quarter after Ravens defensive end Dwayne Missouri - who is also in the running for that last defensive line spot - forced quarterback Jesse Palmer to fumble. After landing on the ball, Gregg realized that no one had touched him and he got up and rumbled 19 yards for the touchdown.

"I think I've had a good camp and I'm just going to let it ride," Gregg said. "I'm not going to worry about it. I did the best I could either way."

Although Brookins isn't fighting for a roster spot, he has started an argument for some playing time.

While Brookins excelled with the second- and third-tier units, Terry Allen again failed to get on track with the starters. He produced 29 yards on 12 carries, with his longest run going for 6 yards.

Is there any chance that Brookins could have worked his way into the starting lineup?

"I doubt that," Ravens coach Brian Billick said.

The Ravens' first-team offense moved the ball on the arm of Grbac, who was 4-for-9 for 86 yards. His day ended on Allen's 1-yard touchdown, which put the Ravens ahead for good 7-6 just five minutes into the second quarter. It marked the second time the starters reached the end zone in 13 drives this preseason.

Meanwhile, the Ravens' starting defense logged in its usual performance.

The Giants had 135 yards of total offense against the Ravens' first group, but managed just two field goals. In five quarters this preseason, the Ravens' starting defense gave up four field goals and no touchdowns.

"As far as us not letting them in the end zone, that's been the case the whole preseason," middle linebacker Ray Lewis said. "For us to go out and have something established like that, we're just really picking up where we left off last year."

That theory will be tested in eight days, when the Ravens' defense truly begins.

"We can go into the regular season feeling fairly good about ourselves," Billick said. "We've had a good camp and good solid work. But now it's a wholly different profile and we've got to defend what we've taken."

Next for Ravens

Regular-season opener

Opponent: Chicago Bears

Site: PSINet Stadium

When: Sept. 9, 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (105.7 FM)

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