Ravens are hoping last tuneup is smooth

Confidence is a priority in final preseason game

August 29, 2002|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Ravens are in search of more continuity, less controversy and, most important, lasting confidence.

In their final tuneup of the preseason, the Ravens (2-1) are taking a train ride north to the Meadowlands, where they look to get their young team on track tonight against the New York Giants (2-2).

The defense wants to begin building chemistry with the preseason debuts of three healing starters - outside linebacker Peter Boulware, defensive end Michael McCrary and cornerback Gary Baxter.

The offense wants to end the doubts by reaching the end zone.

After three preseason games, the starting offense has yet to score a touchdown, totaling nine points in six quarters of work. The 18 drives quarterbacked by first-year starter Chris Redman - one of which ended as the first half expired - have resulted in seven punts, three field goals, three fumbles, two missed field-goal attempts and two interceptions.

"We're not where we want to be as far as an offense," said Redman, who has completed 59.6 percent of his passes for 345 yards.

"I don't think it's a lack of effort. It's just a little mental focus that a young team is going to go through. I think we're going to be pretty good once we get these things fixed."

One of the missing parts in the offense this preseason has been running back Jamal Lewis, who was sidelined all last season with a knee injury.

He returned two weeks ago with an impressive series of work against the New York Jets, dragging tacklers while running for 24 yards on four carries. Lewis was held out of last week's preseason game because of Philadelphia's hazardous turf, but he is scheduled to go 20 to 25 snaps tonight.

"This game will be a lot easier," Lewis said. "I'm not as anxious. I already got the first hit out of the way. Now, it's plain, old Jamal. It's go do what you got to do."

Unlike last week's game, the starting offense will not run with backup quarterback Jeff Blake.

In an effort to get Blake some playing time away from the ragged backups, he played a couple of series with the first team. Blake couldn't lead the starters past midfield but later threw a touchdown pass for the second straight preseason game.

Ravens coach Brian Billick was miffed earlier this week at some reports stirring up a quarterback controversy and plans to play only Redman with the starters in the first half tonight. Blake will work with the backups in the second half.

When asked about fan support for Blake as the starter, Redman said: "It's hard to please everybody. If you go out there and try to do it, you're going to die trying. That's just part of the business. Every starting quarterback has told me, `As soon as you get the job, that's just the way it is.' You have to block it out and play my game."

Instead of a quarterback controversy, the more heated topic surrounding the Ravens has been right tackle Edwin Mulitalo.

Converting from left guard this season, Mulitalo has struggled in pass protection. The transition increases in difficulty as Mulitalo goes head-to-head with Giants end Michael Strahan, who set the NFL's sack record last season with 22 1/2 .

"What a great way for Edwin to finish off his preparation against as good as there is in the league and to measure how far he has come at tackle," Billick said.

The defense will finish off the preseason with a boost, having three starters come back in limited roles.

McCrary and Baxter will play in passing situations, with Baxter working as the nickel back. Boulware will log about a quarter in his first action in the team's new 3-4 defense.

"It kind of puts me behind the eight ball, having to catch up at the last moment," Boulware said. "I'll go out there, get what I need to get out of the game and then get out. Hopefully, I'll be ready for the season."

Billick is hoping that the rest of his young team will be ready for the season opener as well.

Despite what is considered a lengthy preseason, Billick said part of him wishes he could have another game past tonight's preseason finale to develop his inexperienced bunch. But those thoughts quickly pass.

"I'm like everybody," Billick said, "I'm ready for the real deal."

Ravens tonight

Preseason opponent: New York Giants

Site:Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.

When:8

TV/Radio:Comcast SportsNet, Ch. 45/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

Line:Ravens by 3

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