Knight's return helps keep defense in line


He gives secondary lift as nickel defensive back

Pro Football

October 18, 2003|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Ravens cornerback Tom Knight has played more the past two games than he has in nearly two years.

Knight, the Ravens' nickel (fifth) defensive back, has logged about 30 snaps a game in a win over the Arizona Cardinals and a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

After an injury-filled preseason, Knight is playing the way the coaches envisioned when he signed late in the 2002 season (he was inactive the last four games).

Knight has seven tackles in the past two games.

"Tommy Knight is our nickel," secondary coach Donnie Henderson said. "He's done nothing but take over that position. He controls it as far as communication, and he is making it a lot easier on the corner and the safety."

The secondary will get a test in tomorrow's game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. Former first-round pick Peter Warrick is rounding into a solid receiver, leading the Bengals with 29 receptions.

Chad Johnson leads Cincinnati with 429 receiving yards and three touchdowns

Knight's presence means starting safety Gary Baxter no longer has to play the nickel in obvious passing situations. Safety Will Demps used to replace Baxter.

"Anytime Baxter can have the opportunity to focus on one position, that makes his job a lot easier," Knight said. "He has great flexibility and the ability to play many positions, and that's what makes him a talented individual. At the same time, it's a lot easier to focus on a game plan when you only have to worry about one position. But now we have a little stability, and everybody knows their role and their job to do."

As for Demps, his number of snaps with the defense has significantly decreased and will likely not increase unless Knight is injured.

"We started out this whole thing with Tommy being the nickel and Will being the safety," Henderson said.

Billick on replay

With his friend and former coworker Tony Dungy, coach of the Indianapolis Colts, on the bad end of an overturned replay challenge, Ravens coach Brian Billick weighed in again on the use of instant replay.

A Colts interception was overturned after the referee ruled defensive lineman Chad Bratzke never had control of the ball, though replays showed Bratzke with both hands around the ball and two feet on the ground.

"It was there to remove the egregious mistake," Billick said. "And that was the exact word, the egregious mistake. As you typically do now, we have had to evolve into a bit of minutia and little bits of this and that. I think in the offseason what we may very likely do is come back and re-analyze what it is we want out of the replay system and remember what the primary purpose was and maybe remove some of the minutia."

M. Smith may be ready

There is a decent chance the Ravens will activate running back Musa Smith for tomorrow's game.

Smith, the team's third-round pick, has not played because of a knee injury. He has been healthy the past couple of weeks, and the Ravens want him to play on special teams.

"I'm real anxious and nervous though, but it's a good nervous," said Smith. "I'm just excited to get out there and help the team in a win instead of being that moral support on the sidelines.

"It will be my first time seeing the speed of an NFL game, but I think I'll do fine."

Et cetera

The Ravens reported no changes to their injury list, and everyone is expected to be available except receiver Ron Johnson (knee). Johnson could return next week. Bengals running back Corey Dillon (groin) was upgraded from questionable to probable, and receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh (hamstring) was downgraded from questionable to doubtful. ... Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister was fined $5,000 by the NFL for taunting the Arizona Cardinals during his interception return for a touchdown in Sunday's game. The team said he is appealing the fine.

Next for Ravens

Matchup:Ravens (3-2) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (1-4)

Site:Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati

When:Tomorrow, 1 p.m.

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

Line:Ravens by 2

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