Highly touted running game still in low gear

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

109-yard rush average ranks 16th

Suggs hopes to play against Chargers

Ravens

September 26, 2006|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,Sun reporter

Although the Ravens have won their first three games for the first time in franchise history, the rushing offense hasn't provided the spark that several experts had predicted.

The team's rushing average of 109 yards is ranked 16th in the NFL, and none of the team's top three running backs - Jamal Lewis, Musa Smith and Mike Anderson - has a 100-yard rushing game this season.

Coach Brian Billick pointed out that the offense took to the air (43 passing plays compared to 27 running plays) against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday because the team trailed by 11 points in the fourth quarter.

"Because of the nature of the game, you'd like to have run the ball more, naturally, [but] it was tough sledding in there," Billick said yesterday during his weekly media briefing at the team's practice facility in Owings Mills. The running attack did "not have the real big plays that you'd like to have to break it up to put you over that 100-yard mark, which is typically what it takes, but it was tough sledding."

Lewis leads the team with 234 yards on 58 carries, but he has not scored since the season opener Sept. 10 and has yet to display the kind of speed and brute force that he showed during his record-breaking 2003 season.

Lewis, who was slowed by a strained hip flexor during the preseason, said his health is not a factor.

"It's fine. There's no [sore] feeling in it," he said. "I'm ready for whatever Coach is ready to give me."

Smith, the No. 2 back, has carried the ball 12 times for 38 yards, including three attempts for 8 yards Sunday. Anderson, who ran for 1,014 yards and 12 touchdowns with the Denver Broncos last season, had no carries in Cleveland and is listed third on the depth chart. He has eight rushes for 59 yards and one touchdown this season.

Billick regretted not getting Anderson some carries, but chose to draw a benefit from that.

"In the long term, that's going to suit us very, very well in terms of the wear and tear on your backs and how fresh we can have a combination of backs going into any given game," he said.

Injured Suggs eager to face Tomlinson

Linebacker Terrell Suggs said his injured right hamstring is feeling better and didn't rule out playing against the visiting San Diego Chargers on Sunday.

Suggs, who is tied for second on the team in sacks (three) with linebacker Adalius Thomas, said he is looking forward to suiting up against San Diego All-Pro running back LaDainian Tomlinson.

"I'm definitely [a Tomlinson] fan. He's one of the most exciting players in the game," Suggs said. "But he's coming to M&T [Bank Stadium]. Therefore, he's not my friend this week, and I'm not a fan this week. ... [Tomlinson]'s going to be a focal point."

Mason gives offense `C-plus'

After giving the offense a failing mark on the basis of a lethargic performance against the Oakland Raiders, wide receiver Derrick Mason offered an improved grade after Sunday's win.

"C-plus," he said. "You have to be a tough grader because we know we're better than what we've played the last three weeks. The first half, we started off slow and didn't help the defense as much as we should have. The second half, we regrouped and counted on one another to go out and play the type of football we know we're capable of playing. To give this team anything above a C-plus, it would be kind of hard. There's still a lot of room for improvement. Hopefully, we'll get to that A-plus."

Billick downplays `road warriors' tag

Sunday's victory propelled the Ravens to their first back-to-back wins on the road since 2004, when they defeated the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 26 and the Washington Redskins on Oct. 10. But Billick wasn't about to attach the "road warriors" label to the team just yet.

"I don't know about that," he said. "We are 2-0 on the road in the NFL, and that is a good place to be."

edward.lee@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Jamison Hensley contributed to this article.

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