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Running game struggles

Redman, Blake look sharp

August 03, 2002|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Ravens coach Brian Billick showed no sign of concern about a completely ineffective running game in last night's intrasquad scrimmage. Instead, he shrugged off the showing as something that could have almost been expected.

"OK, who'd we have running?" Billick asked. "That's part of it, too. We have some young guys who are working their way up the charts."

The Ravens were without starter Jamal Lewis, who is being brought along slowly and has not taken any live hits yet, and backup Chester Taylor, who injured his leg during practice Tuesday and is expected to return next week.

That left undrafted rookies Tellis Redmon and Dameon Hunter, along with first-year player Derek Homer, to carry the ball. None had a run of more than 6 yards, and Hunter (three carries, 9 yards) was the only player to average more than 1 yard a carry.

Still, quarterbacks Chris Redman and Jeff Blake were able to thrive. Redman completed seven of 10 passes for 83 yards and looked especially sharp on the opening drive against the first-team defense.

Redman hit receiver Travis Taylor for a 12-yard pass, then found tight end John Jones streaking down the middle of the field for a 34-yard completion. After struggling at times during this past week and in minicamps, Redman looked his most poised since becoming the starter in March.

"The first drive was really good, but there are still some little mistakes in there that we have to sharpen up on," he said. "We can't get complacent. But I thought it was a good start, though.

"You like to open up like that, moving it right down the field."

The offense drove to the 1-yard line, but stalled once Redmon was knocked back for a 4-yard loss on first down. Redmon, who is challenging Taylor for the backup spot at running back, finished with five carries for 5 yards and looked tentative on some runs.

"I just got to get better at finding the holes," Redmon said. "But I think the offense did a great job.

"I think I was trying to get the home run instead of trying to get the two or three yards. Going into practice, Coach and I are going to go over everything I did wrong, and I can't wait so I can come back next week and get better."

Hunter did not look much more authoritative. "Some of the runs I took a bad read on, and I should have lowered my head and just gone through," he said.

The Ravens' offense scored touchdowns on two of its eight possessions, with the most impressive play of the night coming from Blake. Displaying the arm that made him a Pro Bowl quarterback with the Cincinnati Bengals, he hit receiver Javin Hunter in stride for a 49-yard touchdown on the offense's third possession.

"I'm comfortable enough in the offense to go out and play a game," Blake said. "I'm not the type of person that has ever made a lot of mental errors. Because if I did, I wouldn't still be in the league.

"It's just all about going out there and performing, and I think that's what a lot of us came out here and did."

That could especially be said for Jones. Three plays before Blake's touchdown pass, the quarterback scrambled to his right and found Jones, who maneuvered his way through the zone and came back for the ball for an 18-yard completion.

Watching Jones, thought of as more of a blocker, come up big in the passing game was an unexpected bonus for the Ravens.

Jones started in place of Todd Heap, who is nursing a triceps injury.

"With Todd not practicing, it gave me a chance to run with the starters," Jones said.

"I'd like to be characterized as being able to block and catch. Earlier in my career, I struggled catching the ball. But I've been working on it, as you guys can see."

The best news of the night may have been the fact that the Ravens made it through without any injuries. The previous two scrimmages were marred by losses to key players (Lewis in 2000, Leon Searcy in 2001).

"We got through without any injuries, and that's a good sign," Billick said. "It means we are flying around and still taking care of each other. There's a lot of athleticism out there."

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