Young players make impact


11 rookies are third most in league

Billick downplays 2000 comparisons

September 19, 2006|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,Sun reporter

The Ravens just might be showing their youth.

Rookie cornerback Ronnie Prude had an interception in the team's 28-6 thumping of the Oakland Raiders at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday. Second-year cornerback Evan Oglesby, filling in for injured starter Samari Rolle, deflected three passes, including one that was intercepted by linebacker Adalius Thomas.

And when nine-time Pro Bowl cornerstone Jonathan Ogden went down in the third quarter with a hyperextended right knee, third-year offensive tackle Adam Terry jumped into the fray.

Oglesby, Prude and Terry are each under 25 and at the forefront of a youth movement that encouraged coach Brian Billick during his post-game briefing with the media yesterday at the team's facility in Owings Mills.

"It doesn't seem to be too big for them," Billick said. "It was very good to see."

Much has been made about the Ravens' experience, which is embodied by 11 players at least 30 years or older on the 53-man roster. What hasn't been discussed as often is that the club has 11 rookies, which is the third-highest number in the league behind the Jacksonville Jaguars (14) and Green Bay Packers (13).

In addition to Oglesby, Prude and Terry, rookie strong safety Dawan Landry led the defense Sunday in tackles with eight, rookie wide receiver Demetrius Williams made a 9-yard reception to convert a third-and-seven situation, and rookie defensive tackle Haloti Ngata battled on the line.

Prude said the coaching staff is constantly reminding the younger players to study the playbook.

"This game is a physical game, and you never know what can happen in those 60 minutes," he said. "Whenever your number is called upon, you've just got to go out there and do your job. I feel like the young guys are making contributions to this team."

The play of Oglesby and Prude shouldn't be a surprise, linebacker Bart Scott said.

"Every guy on that defense is talented and capable of making a play," Scott said. "It's just a credit to our defensive coordinator and our coaching staff [in] coaching everybody up, not just coaching certain players."

No drawing comparisons

If the Ravens' defense is beginning to show shades of the unit that propelled the franchise to the Super Bowl title in the 2000 season, Billick isn't prepared to make comparisons.

"I can understand people doing that, but we're not going to do it," Billick said of the defense, which is ranked first in the NFL in yards allowed (152 per game) and take-aways (nine). "This is a different group of people, a different scheme, a different idea. You always pull back on your heritage a little bit, but there's no upside for us drawing too much into that, other than being very proud of the group that did what they did."

Ogden, Rolle expected to play

Ogden's knee and Rolle's sprained right foot were the only injuries of note from Sunday's game, but Billick said he did not anticipate either player missing Sunday's AFC North matchup with the Cleveland Browns.

"Right now, I'm not aware of anybody that is not going to be available on Sunday, but we'll let the next two days pan out for [trainer] Bill [Tessendorf] to tell us on Wednesday," Billick said.

An update on defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin (thigh) and running back P.J. Daniels (thigh), both of whom were deactivated for the game against the Raiders, will likely be available at that time.

Billick to address keeping poise

Billick said he planned to talk to the team to address the need to maintain composure in the heat of the game.

Billick offered the answer after being asked about cornerback Chris McAlister, who drew a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after being flagged for pass interference in the fourth quarter Sunday. McAlister, who was pulled from the game after the penalty, appeared to step toward Billick for a possible confrontation, but teammates intervened.

"Whether the call is right or not - and that's a pivotal point - you can't let your frustration get to the point where you let that happen," Billick said. "Chris knows that he left us vulnerable that way, particularly with Samari being down and putting those young guys in a tough position. It took awhile [for him] to cool down. You would like that to be faster. Chris recognizes that."

Reed to meet students today

Free safety Ed Reed will meet with more than 600 Booker T. Washington Middle School students at 11 a.m. today to kick off his Leadership, Order, Respect, Discipline, Success (LORDS) program.

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