Ravens At Panthers

Ericsson Stadium, Charlotte, N.c., 1 P.m. Today, Ch. 13

September 08, 2002|By Jamison Hensley

SCOUTING REPORT

RAVENS

Ravens run off. vs. Panthers run def.

The return of Jamal Lewis means the return of the Ravens' ball-control offense. The Ravens are 15-1 when they have a 100-yard rusher and will grind it out as long as they can with Lewis, who missed last season with a knee injury and may be limited to 20 carries. Even if Carolina stacks the line, the Ravens will continue to run until they get stopped. After having the worst run defense in the league last year, the Panthers reworked their linebacking corps, which was highlighted by the move of Dan Morgan from outside to inside.

Key stat: 7. 100-yard rushers allowed by Carolina last season.

EVEN

Ravens pass off. vs. Panthers pass def.

Ravens first-year starting quarterback Chris Redman has a favorable initiation. Carolina's secondary represents the biggest trouble spot for a marginal defense. The Panthers' two cornerbacks - Terry Cousin and Reggie Howard - are first-year starters who lack size. While Redman will primarily hit the short to medium-range passes, he needs to prove that he can go over the top of the defense. Look for the Ravens to test the cornerbacks' discipline in the second half with play-action fakes.

Key stat: 55.9. Redman's low quarterback rating in the preseason.

RAVENS

Panthers run off. vs. Ravens run def.

With only three starters returning from last year's front seven, the Ravens' biggest question is, will inside linebacker Ray Lewis still have unobstructed lanes to make tackles? Although Lewis may have to run through more traffic, he has an emerging star in Ed Hartwell playing next to him inside. The team got some good news late in the week with the announcement that Tony Weaver has recovered enough from a high ankle sprain to start. Carolina's best running back, DeShaun Foster, went down with a knee injury in the preseason. The Panthers will now go with former Miami Dolphin Lamar Smith.

Key stat: 3. Consecutive years Ravens have ranked among the top four best run defenses in the NFL.

EVEN

Panthers pass off. vs. Ravens pass def.

To bail out a raw secondary, the Ravens have to pressure quarterback Rodney Peete. Injuries have hurt the Ravens' defensive backfield, with cornerback Gary Baxter (hamstring) being limited and strong safety Will Demps (elbow) sidelined. Their replacements, cornerback Alvin Porter and safety Anthony Mitchell, have been liabilities in pass coverage. Ravens end Michael McCrary will be limited to passing situations as he is eased back after last year's knee surgery. However, the Panthers are in the same amount of transition after naming Peete, 36, as their starter just six days before the opener. Carolina's top two targets, receiver Muhsin Muhammad and tight end Wesley Walls, appear to be on the downside of their careers.

Key stat: 1. Starter remaining from last year's Ravens secondary (Chris McAlister).

PANTHERS

Special teams

If the season were based solely on special teams, Carolina would be considered a playoff team. The Panthers had two Pro Bowl performers in returner Steve Smith and punter Todd Sauerbrun. The Ravens' coverage teams are inexperienced and have to break even in the field-position battle. Instead of relying on rookie return specialist Lamont Brightful, the Ravens are expected to have Chris McAlister field punts and Javin Hunter run back kickoffs.

Key stat: 3. Return touchdowns by Steve Smith as a rookie last year.

PANTHERS

Intangibles

There are no expectations surrounding the Panthers. They have lost 15 in a row, have an aging quarterback and likely will have plenty of empty seats in the stadium. The Ravens, however, are desperately trying to avoid the stigma of being the team that ends the league's longest current losing streak. That puts additional pressure on the NFL's youngest team. Plus, a team with 19 rookies doesn't want to start the season on the road.

RAVENS

Prediction

The Ravens are starting their rebuilding from the bottom up, but that's still higher than the lowly Panthers. Jamal Lewis will control the clock and the Ravens' revamped defense will control the bland Carolina combination of Rodney Peete and Lamar Smith. In what has the makings of being the ugliest game of the 2002 season, the Ravens will nevertheless savor a 13-9 victory.

BREAK DOWN

Records

Ravens 0-0 Panthers 0-0

Line

Ravens by 2

Vs. spread (2001)

Ravens 8-7 Panthers 8-7

Series

Panthers lead 1-0.

Last meeting

Panthers won, 27-16, on Dec. 15, 1996, in Charlotte, N.C.

Quick hits

The Ravens have not allowed a first-quarter TD in their past 10 regular-season games.

The Ravens have 19 rookie or first-year players on their roster, the most on one NFL team since 1993.

John Fox makes his NFL head coaching debut for the Panthers. He faced the Ravens in the Super Bowl in 2001 as the New York Giants' defensive coordinator.

New Panthers RB Lamar Smith averaged 1,054 yards rushing for the Miami Dolphins the past two seasons.

Injuries

RAVENS: Out: S Will Demps (elbow). Probable: CB Gary Baxter (thigh); DE Tony Weaver (ankle).

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