Commitment to Redman unchanged, Billick says

Ravens coach won't blame QB for all of offense's woes

September 01, 2002|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

A week before the season opener at Carolina, Ravens coach Brian Billick backed Chris Redman as his quarterback and deflected criticism away from his first-year starter.

Redman has taken the brunt of the blame for a first-team offense that failed to reach the end zone in four preseason games. Although Billick admitted Redman has regressed at times this preseason, he referred to him as a victim of circumstance.

Trying to learn on the job himself, Redman has been hurt by the mistakes of seven starters on offense who have three years or less experience.

"We are as committed to Chris Redman as any organization can be," Billick said. "Chris Redman is our quarterback. I've seen nothing in the four preseason games that hasn't indicated that Chris continues to get better, doing positive things."

While the Ravens won't discuss the length of the leash on Redman, they're prepared to give him enough time to develop and enough time to evaluate him. His job likely will not be in jeopardy if he avoids throwing away games.

The Ravens believe the fewer mistakes made by Redman, the better their chances are of winning.

"I really think he's going to be the key to the offense," offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh said. "It's not going to be the plays that we call. It's not how we can trick people. It's going to come down to how smart does Redman play."

When asked about Thursday's 13-0 loss to the New York Giants, Billick and Cavanaugh agreed that Redman did not take a step backward. In fact, Redman stopped only two drives himself, once with a misread and the other on poor mechanics.

The coaches pointed out that the offense was more affected by a couple of dropped passes and sloppy route running.

The starting offense's best scoring chance came on a flea flicker, which was dropped by rookie receiver Ron Johnson at the 5-yard line. And Redman's only interception was the fault of rookie receiver Javin Hunter breaking off his route too early.

"The toughest job we're going to have is making sure we're identifying what Chris is culpable for and what's going on around him," Billick said. "I think the other night was vintage of what went on around him."

Redman finished the preseason with a low quarterback rating of 55.9, completing 58 percent of his passes for 392 yards. He threw no touchdowns and three interceptions.

Those mediocre totals have begun some public clamoring for backup quarterback Jeff Blake, who posted a respectable rating of 75.6 while working mostly against second-team defenses. The 11-year veteran connected on 52 percent of his passes for 391 yards, throwing two touchdowns and one interception.

But would Blake have fared any better with the starting offense against the Giants?

"Those same things would have likely happened," Billick said. "I got to believe Ron Johnson would have dropped the same ball. Javin Hunter would have run the same route. Those things occurred regardless of the quarterback."

The first drive ended because of a misread by Redman.

The play had Johnson going 5 yards over the middle as a decoy to open up the left side for a swing pass to running back Jamal Lewis. But the Giants' linebacker did not cover Johnson and instead tracked Lewis.

Redman, though, did not adjust and overthrew a covered Lewis.

"Chris has to see that the linebacker has got a head start," Cavanaugh said. "Now here comes Ron and he's wide-open."

The second series was stopped a yard short on a completion to Hunter, but the third possession ended on Redman's biggest blunder of the game.

Trying to hurry his throw to receiver Kenyon Hambrick on a quick slant, Redman took one giant hop-step back and got the ball batted down at the line of scrimmage. The play called for Redman to take a three-step drop to get the needed separation between him and the line. The fact that the Ravens don't have a one-step drop in their entire playbook upset the coaches.

"That was the one big bonehead thing he did in the game," Billick said.

The fourth drive stalled on an incompletion as tight end Todd Heap was a couple yards short on his route, and the fifth series resulted in an interception.

That pick should be pinned on Hunter rather than Redman.

Hunter was supposed to sell a deep route, get the cornerback to move downfield and then cut left for an out route. But Hunter broke to the outside too early, allowing cornerback David Mitchell enough time to adjust and roll back for the interception.

So after a preseason of bumps, the Ravens are still ready to roll into the regular season with Redman.

"To make a commitment to him and say we know you're going to go through some growing pains and change our minds after a week or two is not going to be fair to him, and it's not going to be fair to the team," Cavanaugh said. "I expect we stick with him, let him go out and take his lumps when he has to, be a little more productive than he's been up to this point and just live with it."

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