Ravens hoping to get in zone

First-team offense looks to score first preseason TD tonight vs. Eagles

Blake to see time with starters

Pro Football

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

PHILADELPHIA -- When the Ravens walk into Veterans Stadium this time around, their major concern is touchdowns, not turf troubles.

The Ravens' last trip here was a wasted one as last year's preseason opener was canceled because of a treacherous playing surface. But heading into tonight's preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles (1-1), the Ravens (1-1) are more worried about the solid footing of their starting offense.

With first-year starting quarterback Chris Redman at the helm, the offense has yet to score a touchdown this preseason. In 12 drives, the starting offense has crossed the 50-yard line eight times and has only two field goals to show for it.

"We know we can get the ball in the end zone," said Redman, who has thrown for 195 yards this preseason while completing 59 percent of his passes. "Obviously, we can move it down the field. It's not like we're in a drought or anything. We just need to start an attitude because I think this team is capable of scoring a lot of points."

There's a possibility that the first-team offense could score a touchdown and Redman won't be on the field to celebrate it.

Ravens coach Brian Billick announced yesterday that backup quarterback Jeff Blake will receive his first action with the starting group. The rotation is expected to go like this: Redman for the first two to three series, Blake for the next one or two possessions and back to Redman for the rest of the first half.

The change allows Blake to get some snaps away from the chaos that comes with playing behind a porous backup offensive line. It does not signal an open competition at quarterback.

"It's just in fairness to Jeff," Billick said. "We don't want him to leave the preseason feeling helter-skelter because of what's been around him. But we don't want to rob too much from Chris' development."

As Billick puts Blake in a more comfortable environment, he may be placing Redman in an uncomfortable one. Billick said he is committed to Redman being the starter for the season opener, but a dazzling performance by Blake could ignite a quarterback controversy.

Blake, an 11-year veteran, has made it known repeatedly that he wants to be the starter.

"I have to take advantage of the opportunity I have been given to go out and play with those guys," said Blake, who has connected on 56 percent of his passes this preseason for 148 yards. "We'll see what happens. I've played in this league long enough -- and they've seen me play -- I don't think I really have to go out and prove myself to the coaches and the fans. I just have to go out and do the best I can."

As for Redman, the coaches want him to continue his progression.

In the preseason opener, he missed reads and forced throws. The next week, he was more focused but still missed some shots downfield.

"Now, it's time to put it all together," offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh said. "Now, it would be nice to come out of a full half of play with a couple of scores. There's no question that everybody needs it, but particularly Chris."

The Ravens' defense also wants to get back on track.

Last week, the New York Jets exposed the Ravens' run defense and secondary. The Eagles are going to present challenges in both those areas.

The Ravens' defensive front first has to prove it can contain running backs Duce Staley and Dorsey Levens. If the Ravens force Philadelphia into passing situations, that's when the real test begins in trying to slow down Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, a league Most Valuable Player candidate who will play the first half.

"We know that we have to come focused and come prepared from the first snap," said Ravens safety Will Demps, who is expected to make his first NFL start. "We know that this a Philadelphia team that's going to keep a lot of starters in and is probably going to attack us. So, we have to keep pushing forward and keep the ball in front of us."

But the challenge of the night belongs to a first-team offense that has yet to cross the goal line.

It's a tough task since star running back Jamal Lewis is being held off the Vet's troublesome turf and the Eagles are coming off a year in which they ranked second in pass defense. Philadelphia has top-notch cornerbacks in Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor and applies a heavy rush in a blitz-happy scheme.

It appears that pressure will be coming from everywhere for Redman tonight.

"I think it will be the best test we've had this preseason," Redman said. "We're expecting everything, especially when we get closer to the red zone. I think it's going to help us as a team."

Ravens tonight

Preseason opponent: Philadelphia Eagles

Site:Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia

Time:8

TV/Radio:Chs. 45, 5/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

Line:Eagles by 7

Keep an eye on...

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.