Ravens' double team buoys Taylor, Brown

Time share at linebacker plays to their strengths

September 23, 2002|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

A few days before the Ravens played Tampa Bay last Sunday, linebacker Shannon Taylor took a look at the special teams' depth chart and found his name scrawled all over the place.

The implications for Taylor were obvious.

"When I saw my name on the depth chart on most of the special teams, I figured they would get me out on defense and get Cornell [Brown] in there because he is doing some good things," Taylor said. "He is going to help the team."

In fact, Taylor did have half his defensive snaps relieved by Brown while playing on kickoff and punt teams.

The Ravens (0-2) have already made one lineup change this season, elevating Ethan Brooks to starting right tackle and displacing left guard Casey Rabach with Edwin Mulitalo.

Another could happen soon from Taylor's outside linebacker spot with Brown now in football shape and providing the physical presence and run-stopping ability coaches need out of that position - especially with the pounding running game of the Denver Broncos coming next Monday night.

Brown, out of football last year after the Ravens cut him before the first game, played 30 snaps against Tampa Bay and tied for second on the team with seven tackles. It was his most significant action in a game since the playoffs of the Ravens' Super Bowl run in the 2000 season.

"They had a good drive while I was in, so I was able to get warmed up, get in the flow of the game. That was the most exciting part for me," Brown said.

"My role is pretty much to do whatever is asked of me, whatever the coaches want, whatever we need around here. That's what I look forward to, and that's what I've been doing since I've been here."

Essentially, the outside linebacker opposite Peter Boulware needs to specialize in grunt work (taking on tight ends, dropping in zones, not letting running backs get to the outside), and that is Brown's forte.

Taylor, who filled in for Boulware throughout the preseason, is more inclined to attack the line of scrimmage, specifically the quarterback. For what Taylor has in speed and aggressiveness, the third-year player out of Virginia lacks in game experience. This is Taylor's first season as a starter, and he played mostly on special teams in San Diego (2000) and with the Ravens last year.

"Cornell has been the more consistent of the two, but it also is more familiar to his world as to what he's asked to do," defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said. "It's a little less familiar to Shannon's world because Shannon's world has been more to just back up Peter and do Peter's job, which is to pass rush more. But somebody has to do the dirty work.

"The other position is more of a pass rusher that still has to stop the run but you allow that player to attack more. Cornell and Shannon are in a situation where they have to decipher run or pass as to whether they attack the line of scrimmage or coverage. Shannon suits the job like Peter's, but nonetheless, if he wants to get on the field, he has to learn to do those other things because Peter is one of our keys."

Said Taylor: "I've been doing a lot of chasing plays down from the back side and doing a lot of coverage. I haven't been able to attack the line of scrimmage and get after the quarterback like I want. But I feel like I'm playing well, and as a whole, the outside linebackers are playing well."

Especially Brown, who has his first legitimate chance to start since the Ravens selected him in the sixth round of the 1997 draft.

"I'm going to continue to work to try to start," Brown said. "You want to be a starter. And I'm going to do everything I need to do to prepare myself to start.

"I consider myself a complete football player that can go out and play every down if asked."

Brown may not have that chance just yet. Ravens coaches say they will continue with the rotation until one player becomes significantly better than the other.

"If it takes for us to split the reps up for us to get it done, then that is what we are going to have to do," Taylor said. "We are trying to get in the win column. Whatever the coaches decide, that is what they decide, and I'm just going to have to live with that."

Next for Ravens

Opponent:Denver Broncos

Site:Ravens Stadium

When:Next Monday, 9 p.m.

TV/Radio:Chs. 2, 7/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

Line:Broncos by 7 1/2

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