Newsome, Savage make right calls on `little guys'

On the Ravens

Ravens Gameday

Ravens 23, Bengals 9

September 27, 2004|By MIKE PRESTON

CINCINNATI -- The Ravens should not allow general manager Ozzie Newsome and director of player personnel Phil Savage to leave the organization until they retire. Whatever they want or need, just give it to them.

Their draft record with No. 1 picks has been impeccable, with players like Jonathan Ogden, Ray Lewis, Peter Boulware, Terrell Suggs, Ed Reed, Chris McAlister and Todd Heap, but they distinguish themselves with late-round picks, or rookie "street free agents" who make major contributions.

When you look at the Ravens' 23-9 win over the Cincinnati Bengals yesterday, it's obvious that running back Jamal Lewis played a major part with 186 yards rushing, and the defense was good in holding the Bengals to three field goals.

But a lot of little guys who don't draw the major headlines or make SportsCenter won this game. The Ravens came in without five starters and walked away with a rout because of players like Randy Hymes, Will Demps, B.J. Sams, Adalius Thomas, Alan Ricard and Daniel Wilcox.

Who are these guys, and where did they find them?

A lot of them might be on the streets if the Ravens hadn't discovered them. The Ravens have street cred. They also have Newsome and Savage, the two best in the business.

"Just because you're hurt doesn't mean you can't play on Sunday," Ogden said. "Our personnel department does a great job of finding players. They find guys who have the same mentality we have. If people around you play at a certain level, that means you've got to play at that level, too. Our guys may not have had the great numbers in college, or the size and speed ratio, but you just need to know how to play the game."

You have to have athleticism, which is No. 1 on the priority list, and the main reason the Ravens win. The Ravens also have some great coaching.

But overall, it's the drafting. You can have deficiencies, but you better want to learn, and you better have an attitude.

Take Hymes. He played quarterback at Grambling, but the Ravens gambled on him as a wide receiver, signing him as a rookie free agent in the spring of 2002. Yesterday, filling in for starting receiver Travis Taylor for the second straight game, Hymes caught a 13-yard pass over the middle and turned it into a 38-yard touchdown in the second quarter.

A key block was delivered by tight end Wilcox, who was filling in for the injured Heap. Last year, Wilcox had more stops than a New Orleans hobo before the Ravens brought him to training camp this summer.

And then there is Sams, the rookie out of McNeese State. He weighs 185 pounds with ankle weights and dressed in a water-soaked sweat suit. Teams wanted him like they want more reconstructive knee surgeries.

Yesterday, Sams returned a punt 63 yards to the Bengals' 8-yard line in the first quarter. Three plays later, quarterback Kyle Boller scored on a 7-yard run around left end.

The key blocks on Sams' return and Boller's touchdown were delivered by two more "street" players, safety Demps on the punt return and fullback Ricard for Boller.

"Huge. Huge. We talked about how that's the big play that we didn't have last year on special teams to add to whatever we do offensively -- that total equation. It's huge," said Ravens coach Brian Billick.

It's the same on defense. Maake Kemoeatu (four tackles) was making his second straight start at nose tackle for the injured Kelly Gregg. In the past two weeks, Kemoeatu has played against two Pro Bowl players, and he's 2-0.

Kemoeatu was in the same class with Gregg, defensive end Marques Douglas and Thomas, an outside linebacker, coming out of college. He was too something. Oh, that's right, too slow. Gregg was too short. Douglas (six tackles) got no respect because he graduated from Howard. Thomas was a "tweener," too small to play end, too big to be an outside linebacker.

Yesterday, Thomas had only two tackles, but he was on quarterback Carson Palmer as much as Palmer's No. 9 jersey. Thomas sacked Palmer, forcing a fumble that linebacker Ray Lewis recovered at the Ravens' 46 in the second quarter. His outstretched hands in the face of Palmer probably played a part in safety Reed picking off a Palmer pass at the Ravens' 10 nearly four minutes later.

"A lot of times, we say, `How did that person slip [in the draft]?' " Thomas said. "Will Demps, myself, Marques, Kelly. I guess the Ravens said nobody else wants them, we'll take them. We'll give them a chance."

Savage and Newsome are the leaders of perhaps the best scouting department in the NFL. No rock or small school is left unturned. The best part is that the Ravens (2-1) have yet to play a game with all of their starters.

"A lot of the starters are out; that makes it scary for a lot of the teams," running back Jamal Lewis said. "We're winning with second- and third-string guys who are just kind of step-up-and-get-it-done kind of guys."

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