Original `D' may prove preferable


For reasons of personnel, numbers, 4-3 set pondered



May 23, 2002|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Spurred by the slow progress of linebacker Adalius Thomas and the absences of linebackers Ray Lewis and Peter Boulware, the Ravens have discussed the possibility of switching back to a 4-3 defense.

The Ravens have played in a 4-3 alignment (four linemen and three linebackers) as the NFL's second-ranked defense the past three years, but they had planned to go to a 3-4 defense (three linemen and four linebackers) to highlight the talents of outside linebackers Thomas and Boulware.

But according to a league source, the Ravens have expressed disappointment over the consistency of Thomas, a defensive end last year who is playing linebacker for the first time in the NFL. If the Ravens can re-sign defensive tackle Sam Adams, there is a likelihood that the team would go back to a 4-3 defensive scheme and move Thomas back to defensive end, where he showed strong flashes last season.

When asked about Thomas' play at linebacker, coach Brian Billick said, "He's doing OK. If this is not as comfortable, we can't dismiss the possibility [of switching defenses]."

The other issue surrounding the 3-4 defense - but to a lesser extent - has been the no-shows of half of the team's starting linebacking corps in passing camp. Without Lewis and Boulware, the coaching staff has had trouble getting a feel for the new scheme.

"We've talked about wanting to go to the 3-4, but part of that is not here," Billick said. "We can only progress so far. We may indeed go back to the 4-3, which has been pretty successful. If I'm not comfortable with the amount of 3-4 that we might play - and I can't be unless I see it in practice - we may very well go back."

The news of a possible change in defenses took Thomas by surprise. "We're still in the 3-4 until someone tells me different," Thomas said. "I think I'm making the adjustment well. It'll be good to go back and forth because that's another dimension we can have under our sleeve."

Ja. Lewis misses practice

Running back Jamal Lewis missed his first practice of the off-season camps for a "personal obligation." Team officials said that his absence was not related to his rehabilitation from knee surgery.

Getting the last word

Billick concluded a war of words with agent Roosevelt Barnes, who represents Ray Lewis and Boulware. On Tuesday, Barnes took exception to Billick's comments about agents and told Billick to concentrate more "about the numbers on the scoreboard and not on the contract."

"It sounds like he is auditioning for a job in talk radio," Billick said. "I think we've exhausted that subject."

Billick later said if the team cannot restructure the deals of Lewis and Boulware to free up salary cap room, that the Ravens would be "locked out" of the free-agent market in June. The Ravens are expected to add a veteran running back and bring back some free agents from last year's team.

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