Overall, put start in plus column

Rookies show promise

young defense takes page from old, dominant unit

Analysis

Overall, good signs outweigh bad

August 10, 2002|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

Two teams in search of an identity collided last night at Ravens Stadium. The ensuing punt-off was short on drama, but revealing in nature.

The Ravens may be young, but they've got some scrap in them. Now, at least, you have a mental image to go with all those new names on the roster.

Lamont Brightful might not be Jermaine Lewis, but he did a pretty nifty impersonation when he quick-stepped through the Detroit Lions' coverage team for a 34-yard punt return in the second quarter.

It led to the only points the Ravens got in a mistake-filled first half: a 44-yard Matt Stover field goal that was barely long enough.

Wide receiver Javin Hunter might not be as fast as Qadry Ismail, but he looked quick enough when he took off on a second-quarter reverse in which he juked cornerback Chris Cash with an inside move and picked up an extra five yards for an 18-yard gain.

Free safety Chad Williams doesn't look anything like Rod Woodson, but he looked pretty comfortable on attack in the Ravens' revamped secondary. Ed Reed, the first-round pick who held out nine days, didn't get any closer to the starting job the way Williams played.

Consider this: Brightful, Hunter and Williams are all rookies, all sixth-round draft picks - that must be the Ravens' round - and all reasons why the team feels it can make a relatively quick turnaround.

But the more things change, the more they stay the same.

In a 12-6 victory, defense was the heartbeat of this team again last night. It pressured the Detroit quarterbacks all game and, at the end, produced the game-winning touchdown on an 18-yard interception return by undrafted safety Will Demps after a terrible Joey Harrington pass.

Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan's new 3-4 scheme more than made up for the growing pains of the Ravens' ragged offense.

"[The Lions] didn't know what we'd do because we had no record," Nolan said. "That put them on the downside. ... We were pleased with the effort. We have a lot of young guys."

What put the Lions on their backs was a fierce pass rush. The Ravens collected eight sacks and picked up three interceptions. The pressure was constant. On Demp's interception, Harrington heaved a deep ball down the middle of the field into two-deep coverage, and intended receiver Matt Murphy never had a chance at the ball.

Harrington, the third pick in the draft, completed 12 of 21 passes for 117 yards and two interceptions. He was sacked three times.

Mike McMahon, the Lions' second-year starter, was sacked four times in the first half, two by inside linebacker Ed Hartwell. McMahon's problem as a starter a year ago was his accuracy, and it didn't improve in the face of the Ravens' pass rush.

McMahon completed just eight of 20 passes, but threw one to Ravens cornerback Alvin Porter and almost had another picked off by rookie Shawn Byrdsong. The Lions managed just 56 total yards in the first half against what basically constituted the Ravens' first-team defense. Inside linebacker Ray Lewis and cornerback Chris McAlister went out after the first quarter, but the rest of the first unit played on.

The Lions managed just one first down in the first quarter, and five times they went three-and-out.

Ray Lewis was happy for the performance of the new guys.

"How about those young players against [Detroit's] first offense?" Lewis said. "They're schooled. Think about it - we did that without six starters [from last season]. That's scary."

The reviews were less than good for quarterback Chris Redman's debut as starter. He barely missed tight end Todd Heap, open down the middle, and then overthrew wide receiver Travis Taylor near the goal line on his only two deep throws of the half.

It did not help early that new right tackle Edwin Mulitalo struggled mightily against Detroit's Pro Bowl defensive end, Robert Porcher. On the first series, Mulitalo set up outside against Porcher and he went inside to drill Redman and force an incompletion.

On the second series, Porcher threw down Mulitalo and chased Redman out of the pocket. Another time, Porcher collapsed the pocket by shoving Mulitalo back toward Redman.

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