Injuries piling up on Ravens

Gregg, T. Taylor hurt in opener

receivers struggle vs. Browns

September 14, 2004|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

A day after their season-opening 20-3 loss in Cleveland, the Ravens were on the losing end again.

Just as the Ravens were welcoming back All-Pro offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden to the lineup yesterday, team officials learned that they could be missing two other starters - nose tackle Kelly Gregg and receiver Travis Taylor - for Sunday's home opener against Pittsburgh.

Gregg had minor knee surgery yesterday and could be sidelined for two weeks, while Taylor aggravated his groin injury and is considered questionable for the Pittsburgh Steelers, according to Ravens trainer Bill Tessendorf.

Ogden, however, provided the first glimmer of hope in what has been a gloomy start so far for the Ravens.

"I have better mobility so I don't see any reason why I shouldn't play this week," said Ogden, who was sidelined in the season opener with a sprained left knee. "It looks good."

The return of Ogden won't solve all the problems for an offense that moved past Cleveland's 41-yard line just once and failed to score a touchdown Sunday.

After dissecting the film, the Ravens coaching staff said the main reason for Jamal Lewis' pedestrian numbers (his 57 yards rushing and 2.9-yard average were his lowest in 20 games) was ineffective blocking by the receivers, not the injury-marred offensive line.

Too many times Lewis would cut back to what should have been an open lane only to be met by a Browns safety who should have been taken out of the play by either Taylor, Kevin Johnson or Randy Hymes. Not coincidentally, safety Robert Griffith led the Browns with nine tackles.

"That kept some plays that had a chance to be big turn into nothing," offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh said. "They missed some blocks on the backside runs, in particular when runs were getting cut back and they weren't in position. That kind of set the tone early in the game."

Cavanaugh, however, set the tone in a meeting yesterday.

"I made mention to the team that I think the effort wasn't good enough," he said. "When it's a bunch of assignment mistakes, then it's something we have to talk about collectively. You have to find out how important all those other things are to you when you're getting the ball and prove it.

"We've got enough bodies here that if you're not doing it, we'll find someone else to do it. I'm not threatening anybody. I'm just telling them, `We have high expectations and there's no way we're going to get anywhere near them if we play with that kind of effort.' I think they're aware of that now."

Besides blocking, the receivers have to find a way to get open more consistently.

Although quarterback Kyle Boller has yet to establish consistent accuracy, he had limited chances because there was frequently no separation between his receivers and the defenders. On several occasions, he decided to throw the ball away rather than risk an interception.

Given those circumstances, coach Brian Billick said, "[Boller] was smart not to force the ball, which is one of the things I think he did well. I think he showed good judgment. On the whole, I liked what I saw in his first outing."

Said Cavanaugh: "For the most part, he was head and shoulders mentally better than he was a year ago."

If Taylor can't play, Boller's receiving corps could dwindle to Johnson, Hymes and rookie Devard Darling. Hymes would likely make his first start since 2002.

Taylor pulled up lame on a deep route over the middle, which came on a controversial third-and-one call. A magnetic resonance imaging test yesterday showed Taylor had aggravated a groin injury.

"It might be a little more severe than the original pull," Billick said.

The upset loss marked the 15th time that the Ravens were held without an offensive touchdown in 81 games under Billick and Cavanaugh. It also represented the fifth game in which the Ravens were held to three points or fewer.

The accountability, tight end Todd Heap said, extends beyond the coaches.

"It's something we have to correct together as players," Heap said. "The coaches can help us out a little bit. But it's really on us that we all know what we need to do."

For those players that were unclear on the mistakes, yesterday's film review served as a painful reminder.

"When we watched the film, for me it was kind of like hiding behind my hand, just kind of peeking through [to watch]," left guard Edwin Mulitalo said. "To get this taste out of our mouth, we need to win this week."

Next for Ravens

Matchup: Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0) vs. Ravens (0-1)

Site: M&T Bank Stadium

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

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

Line: Ravens by 4

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