Mike Preston's midseason report card


November 11, 2005|By MIKE PRESTON

Quarterback: C-

If Anthony Wright played the way he did two years ago, the Ravens would be close to .500. Wright has a strong arm but has had problems grasping the team's predictable offense. He throws intermediate and long passes well but lacks touch on short passes. There have been times when Wright has made plays after the pocket has broken down, but he has yet to lead the Ravens to a win at crunch time. He has regressed in the same manner as Kyle Boller, who made no progress from the end of last season. Boller will be the starter in the second half of the season, but it will have little impact.

Offensive line: D+

This group is too old and beat up to perform consistently well. Left tackle Jonathan Ogden is a dominant force again after a slow start. Left guard Edwin Mulitalo was slowed by an injury but has gradually improved. But play from the center to the right side has been poor. Center Mike Flynn has been getting knocked into the backfield. Right guard Keydrick Vincent, a free-agent acquisition in the offseason, has been a major disappointment. Orlando Brown and Tony Pashos have split time at right tackle, but both are weak in pass blocking. As a unit, the line is poor at protecting the quarterback and often fails to pick up blitzes. The offseason conditioning needs to improve.

Running backs: D

There's not much to say when a running back admits to not playing hard because of his contract status. Star halfback Jamal Lewis has shown flashes - just enough to let people know he can still be effective - but he isn't punishing tacklers the way he did in the past. Lewis has been hesitant in hitting the hole and has headed to the sideline at times instead of taking on tacklers. He had a great audition for the rest of the league when he ran hard against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football. Backup Chester Taylor has performed well, but the Ravens won't increase his role. Taylor is decisive and hits the hole hard. He always gets yards and is a weapon out of the backfield. A major problem early in the season was that the Ravens couldn't decide if they wanted to be an I-formation team with a fullback, or a West Coast offense without one. The fullback play has been spotty at best.

Receivers: B-

Derrick Mason has been a gem, is the team's only consistent weapon on the outside and has shown a competitive fire that this team lacks. He runs good routes and goes after the ball. The Ravens, though, don't have a player to complement him on the other side. Second-year receivers Clarence Moore and Devard Darling showed promise last season but have contributed little this year, with Moore dropping passes and losing his starting spot. Coaching at this position has been suspect for years, and it has to be questioned again at the midway point. Tight end Todd Heap has made contributions, but the Ravens need to use him more as a major weapon. Heap should be a big target over the middle in the red zone. Because of the lack of production on the outside, the Ravens could make Heap a receiver, and then use Darnell Dinkins or Daniel Wilcox as the tight end. These options might juice up the passing attack. The Ravens also need to get Heap into deeper routes instead of 3- or 4-yard patterns into the flat.

Defensive line: B-

Tackles Kelly Gregg and Maake Kemoeatu should be role models for all players - they don't dance or talk trash; they just play hard without much fanfare. In addition to holding offensive linemen off middle linebacker Ray Lewis, they make a lot of tackles around the line of scrimmage. Still, the Ravens need a stud who can penetrate and disrupt plays in the backfield, which only happens occasionally. The Ravens have missed end Tony Weaver, who was out four games with turf toe. Weaver is steady, athletic and can make big plays. Weaver's replacement, Jarret Johnson, has a big heart but lacks size.

Linebackers: B

Ray Lewis has missed the past two games with a hamstring injury but was playing well before that. He isn't the Lewis of old. He misses tackles and has gotten flattened by ball carriers several times this season, but he still has a presence inside and runs sideline to sideline. Terrell Suggs has been a force as a pass rusher. He has a great first step and surprising strength, but he needs to have a presence against quality offensive tackles. Good left tackles have made him disappear at times. He also has become a liability in pass coverage. Outside linebacker Adalius Thomas is having perhaps his best season. He is complete as a threat to stop the run and pass, and is one of the team's most dominant special teams players. Weak-side linebacker Tommy Polley has performed well at times and has great speed, but like the rest of this team, he has been unable to make big plays when needed. The Ravens need to get Bart Scott more playing time. He's athletic and versatile enough to play inside or outside.

Secondary: B

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