For Ravens' passing game, Johnson spells relief

Veteran wide receiver: 'This is the team I really wanted to be with'

April 28, 2004|By P.J. Martinez | P.J. Martinez,Baltimoresun.com Staff

OWINGS MILLS - The Ravens welcomed Kevin Johnson to Baltimore today, and no one was happier to see him than offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh.

Under Cavanaugh last season, the Ravens finished last in the NFL in passing offense, averaging a paltry 140.9 yards per game. Although most opponents stacked the line of scrimmage to contain running back Jamal Lewis, leaving cornerbacks in single coverage, no Ravens receiver caught more than 39 passes.

Enter Johnson, whose career took a dramatic turn last November when he was released by the Cleveland Browns after a personality conflict with coach Butch Davis.

Over his five-year career, the 5-foot-11, 195-pound Johnson has averaged 66 receptions a season, finally giving the Ravens the consistent pass-catcher they've been seeking since February's trade for Terrell Owens was rescinded by the league.

According to Cavanaugh, the ripple effect of Johnson's presence at receiver will energize the entire offense.

"He's going to complement Travis Taylor, take a little pressure off of him, and that in turn will take a lot of pressure off of Todd Heap, and in turn take a lot of pressure of Jamal Lewis."

"The ultimate goal of all this," Cavanaugh joked, "is to take pressure off of me, so I think it's going to work out very well."

The Ravens were among 16 teams to bid for Johnson's services after his release in Novemeber. Since the Jacksonville Jaguars had the worst record among those teams, they acquired the former Syracuse star for the final six games of the season. According to Johnson, however, Baltimore was his top choice.

"It's just amazing how God has things work out, because this is the place I really wanted to play," Johnson said. "This is the team I really wanted to be with."

Johnson will get plenty of chances to showcase his talent, as opposing defenses will likely continue to focus their attention on Lewis, who ran for a league-leading 2,066 yards last season. That means more single coverage on the corners for Johnson and Taylor.

"As a receiver, you love that," Johnson said. "Playing in Cleveland, we never had one-on-ones. We always saw cover two because we never threatened anyone in the running game. But now they're going to have to respect [Lewis] in the backfield, and it's a receiver's dream."

Originally published April 28, 2004, 4:26 PM EDT

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