Hurting receiving unit still a force for Miami

Intent on staying on roll, Ravens' secondary says injuries change nothing

Dolphins' pass offense vs. Ravens' pass defense

January 10, 2002|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

The Dolphins' receivers are beat up, a fact Ravens cornerback Duane Starks greeted with a shrug.

Oronde Gadsen (hamstring), James McKnight (ankle) and Chris Chambers (ankle) are all on the injury report. Gadsen, who did not play Sunday against Buffalo, and Chambers, who left the game early, are questionable, while McKnight is probable.

"Whether or not a guy is injured doesn't affect what we want to do," Starks said.

Which means containing the opposing team's passing game, as was the case Monday night when Starks and fellow cornerback Chris McAlister held Minnesota receivers Cris Carter and Randy Moss to a combined 69 yards on seven catches.

The task would appear to be easier this week for the Ravens' eighth-ranked secondary, though what the Dolphins lack in big-name receivers, they make up for in depth.

Gadsen, McKnight, Chambers and fourth-receiver Dedric Ward have given the Dolphins a lift in the passing game from when the two teams met in the third game last season. Quarterback Jay Fiedler, who has thrown for more than 3,000 yards for the first time in his career, has 28 completions of more than 25 yards this season, 13 to Chambers.

Chambers, a rookie second-round pick out of Wisconsin, is not a starter, but may be the team's most dangerous receiver. His average of 18.4 yards a catch is the best of the top 20 receivers in the NFL, and his 883 receiving yards is a rookie team record.

Ward, the healthiest of the group, has just 21 catches, but 10 of them have come on third down. Gadsen and McKnight each have more than 600 receiving yards.

The Ravens struggled with the long ball during one stretch this season, but in their last three games, they didn't give up a completion longer than 20 yards to the Vikings' Spergon Wynn, Tampa Bay's Brad Johnson and Cincinnati's Jon Kitna.

All three of those quarterbacks were held under 200 yards passing, something the Ravens have accomplished nine times this season.

During last season's playoff run, the play of the Ravens' secondary elevated the defense to championship status after giving up 473 yards to the New York Jets in the season finale. The secondary comes in this time with much more momentum against a receiving corps that is hurting, but still dangerous.

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