Five Goals For Ravens

Pro football

July 31, 2005|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Re-acclimate Jamal Lewis to football.

For the first time this year, Lewis will catch a break. The Ravens have stressed patience in light of his turbulent offseason and intend to bring him along slowly.

The 2003 NFL Offensive Player of the Year spent four months of the offseason in a federal prison and the past two in an Atlanta halfway house after pleading guilty to using a cell phone to try to set up a 2000 cocaine deal.

Lewis is expected to report to camp a few days late to finish out his sentence and likely will be limited until the team can gauge his physical status. Team officials believe he is in solid shape, but Lewis had ankle surgery in February and hasn't practiced in seven months.

Adjust to new defense.

Ray Lewis and company have been the backbone of the Ravens for the past six seasons despite switching from the 4-3 alignment (four linemen, three linebackers) to the 3-4 in 2002. Now, the Ravens are undergoing another change, with new coordinator Rex Ryan moving more toward the 46 defense, the scheme made famous by his father, Buddy, nearly two decades ago.

The 46 defense is characterized as a high-risk, high-reward strategy, one in which a mistake can quickly turn into a touchdown. By crowding eight defenders near the line of scrimmage, the defense should keep blockers from getting to Lewis but is more susceptible to the deep pass. That's why the Ravens have to make sure they know their new responsibilities in this defense.

The Ravens, though, believe they will reach the quarterback more often than offenses will reach the end zone. Limiting points has been the trademark of the Ravens, who have ranked sixth or better in scoring defense in five of the past six seasons.

Change Kyle Boller's mentality.

It seemed last year as if the Ravens still had their starting quarterback programmed not to lose games rather than to win them. New coordinator Jim Fassel has made it a priority to get Boller into an aggressive mind-set.

For the Ravens to get into an attack mode, they need to boost Boller's accuracy (55.6 percent last season) and his yards per attempt (5.5), both of which ranked 30th in the NFL. The only way defenses will respect the pass is if Boller can get his statistics to the league average of 59.8 percent and 7 yards per attempt. These are realistic target numbers, considering the additions of Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton at receiver, along with a healthy Todd Heap at tight end.

Keep the secondary healthy.

The Ravens' defensive backfield is their strongest position and their riskiest one. The tentative plan is to keep seven players, instead of eight, on the 53-man roster, which means the Ravens will carry only two backups at cornerback (older veterans Dale Carter and Deion Sanders) and one at safety (Chad Williams).

But the Ravens consider it a moderate gamble, because a backup had to start only one game in the secondary last season. If injuries occur here during camp, the Ravens likely will wait to pick up a defender when the last major cut-down is made, just before the regular season. Still, on the safe side, does Ed Reed even have to play this preseason?

Iron out the starting lineup.

The only unsettled spots are receiver and right offensive tackle. It has been assumed that Clayton could start at receiver, but the first-round pick will have to earn that spot. Instead, Clarence Moore will start alongside Mason because the Ravens believe Moore's height (6 feet 6) and leaping ability better complement the quicker, sure-handed Mason. What works against the rookie Clayton, who will play the slot in three-wide formations, is that his talents closely mirror Mason's.

The right offensive tackle job is Orlando Brown's to lose. All Brown has to prove is that he's healthy enough to endure a full season. That's no certainty, with Brown coming off offseason knee surgery at the age of 34. The Ravens will try to keep him fresh with a less-strenuous camp but also will keep an eye on their other two options, Tony Pashos and rookie Adam Terry.

Other roster questions that need to be addressed: Can Darnell Dinkins maintain his edge on the No. 2 tight-end job, will undrafted rookie Rhys Lloyd show he can handle the job as kickoff specialist or will the Ravens have to sign a veteran free agent, and who will win the battle to be backup fullback, Ovie Mughelli or Justin Green?

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.