Blake's big arm pointing toward Taylor

QB has been known to do favors for young receivers

October 30, 2002|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Receiver Travis Taylor was one of the first Ravens to offer a welcoming hand to Jeff Blake after the veteran quarterback signed in the offseason. Blake, who will start his second game of the year Sunday at Atlanta in place of an injured Chris Redman, has formulated how he will return the kindness.

Blake said he has previously extended the same courtesy to up-and-coming receivers.

"I helped [Carl] Pickens get on the map. I helped Joe Horn get on the map. So I guess it is my turn to help Taylor," Blake said.

Blake did indeed produce 1,000-yard receiving years for Pickens with the Cincinnati Bengals and later helped contribute to a 1,000-yard season by Horn with the New Orleans Saints.

Taylor, in his first extensive action with Blake, had a career-high seven catches for 82 yards in Sunday's 31-18 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

There is no denying much of Taylor's statistical success was a product of the Ravens falling behind by 25 points in the first half and Blake having to toss 50 passes. But Blake, who favors throwing downfield to receivers, could continue to look Taylor's way against Atlanta's pass defense, ranked sixth overall in the NFL.

"Obviously, there is a connection there, which is good," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "Jeff's abilities lend itself more to the outside game. And Travis has been beat up the last month or so. [The media] has gotten after him pretty good; I've gotten after him pretty good. But I don't have anybody that works any harder than Travis or wants it any more."

So will Taylor's superior work ethic finally produce dynamic play - even if but for a couple of weeks - with Blake, his sixth quarterback? Taylor remained noncommittal and bristled at the idea that their on-field relationship will be any different than that of him and Redman, who is out with a herniated disc in his lower back.

"Everybody wants to be that go-to guy," Taylor said. "But whatever circumstances are at hand, you go after it. If it's one-on-one with Todd [Heap], then take that. If it's one-on-one with me and [Brandon] Stokley, then take that. So I'm not saying pick a No. 1 target."

And there may lie the problem for Taylor. Because of his lofty draft status (10th overall in 2000) and experience (third year in the Ravens' system), expectations are that he should be the primary target.

So far, he is third on the team in catches (24) and yards (301) this season.

By contrast, Steelers receiver Plaxico Burress, selected two spots ahead of Taylor, has 32 catches for 447 yards and four touchdowns, on the heels of a breakout season a year ago. Taylor admits to keeping an eye on how his draft class is fairing but dismisses the criticism surrounding his production level.

"My expectations are high," Taylor said. "But I look at the things that Plaxico is doing, the things that Peter [Warrick] is doing and Darrell Jackson, and it's all about timing. Plaxico stepped into Pittsburgh and he didn't have a Shannon Sharpe, a Qadry Ismail. I just wanted to come in, do my part and help this offense.

"I can't control what other people say, so I don't even worry about it."

Taylor remains one of the most good-natured and humble Ravens, qualities that don't always bode well in a position that thrives on individualism.

But Taylor's inclusive attitude is what drew Blake to him before the two connected on their first pass.

"Sometimes, even as a coach, you get swayed by the persona of an individual, and Travis is a good kid," Billick said. "He's never addressed me as anything but `Yes, sir,' and `No, sir.' And I'm going on Year 3 with the kid.

"All Travis does is work. He's got the athletic ability, and we've seen flashes. Now the challenge for Travis is, given the opportunity, can you follow that up with a couple of games when this team really needs it, to have that kind of presence and show up? I think he can. Given the right circumstances, I think Travis can live up to the fruition we had for him when we made him the 10th pick of the draft."

NOTES: The Ravens signed defensive end David Nugent yesterday. Nugent, a sixth-round draft pick in 2000 by New England, played in the final nine games last season with the Patriots. The Ravens released end Howard Green to make room for Nugent. ... Guard Edwin Mulitalo introduced Big Ed's Band Foundation, in conjunction with Comcast and VH1 Save the Music, whose mission is to donate money to restore music education programs for students. A $400,000 donation was made to 16 Baltimore City schools.

Next for Ravens

Opponent: Atlanta Falcons

Site: Georgia Dome, Atlanta

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

Line: Falcons by 7 1/2

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