Washington's injury a capital concern

December 16, 2008|By MIKE PRESTON | MIKE PRESTON,mike.preston@baltsun.com

Going into the 2008 season, there were certain Ravens who were irreplaceable, such as inside linebacker Ray Lewis, safety Ed Reed and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.

You can now put cornerback Fabian Washington on that list. Yes, Fabian Washington.

The Ravens have reached a point where they cannot afford any more injuries in the secondary, and the Ravens are not sure whether Washington can play Saturday night against the Dallas Cowboys because of an injured hamstring.

Washington suffered the injury in the Pittsburgh game Sunday and wasn't on the field during the Steelers' 12-play, 92-yard game-winning drive at the end of the fourth quarter.

Unfortunately for the Ravens, Washington was playing his best football of the season. The Steelers tried to test him deep several times but had no success. Washington had five tackles and knocked down three passes before leaving the game with about 10 minutes remaining.

If Washington, who is filling in for the injured Chris McAlister, can't play, the Ravens will likely start Frank Walker in his place. Walker is the team's No. 4 cornerback.

Walker will definitely get tested by the Cowboys. Physically, the Ravens' cornerback tandem of Samari Rolle (6 feet, 175 pounds) and Walker (5-11, 196) don't match up well with Dallas wide receivers Terrell Owens (6-3, 218) and Roy Williams (6-3, 211).

Another matchup problem in the secondary is Ravens' safety Jim Leonhard (5-8, 186) against Cowboys tight end Jason Witten (6-5, 262).

"[Depth is] always a great thing on any team. It just so happens that we've got major depth a corner," Walker said. "We've got a lot of guys that can play.

"I feel like no matter what happens to me, Fabian or the next guy, we'll be ready - period. That's just the way guys go about it over here."

Washington said, "We've got some very good corners, talented corners on this team."

A few weeks ago, the thought of the Ravens going into Dallas to play the last game at Texas Stadium was a no-win proposition for the Ravens.

But at the beginning of last week, it seemed as if the Cowboys were about to implode with Owens saying quarterback Tony Romo and Witten had conspired in an effort to get the tight end more receptions than Owens.

But after watching Dallas whip up on the New York Giants on Sunday night, the Ravens will still have a tough assignment. Not only are the Cowboys still in playoff contention, but they also physically handled the Giants' offensive line, one of the best in the NFL.

On Saturday, the Cowboys will probably bring back all their greats in closing Texas Stadium. The Ravens will have to survive a very strong Dallas team and a long, emotional evening.

Spitting mad

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this morning reported that the reason Pittsburgh kicker Jeff Reed shoved Walker on the extra-point attempt after the game-winning drive was because Walker spit on holder Mitch Berger.

It had to have been something totally out of line for a kicker to come out swinging. Here's hoping that it's not true even though Walker often gets into confrontations with other players. It would undermine everything that coach John Harbaugh has tried to teach the Ravens about handling themselves on and off the field with class.

This would even be lower than the cheap shot Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward tried to take at Ravens inside linebacker Bart Scott on a peel-back block in the second half Sunday.

Learning experience

There have been complaints about Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron being too conservative against Pittsburgh, but the Ravens took plenty of shots downfield Sunday.

Actually, if Ravens rookie quarterback Joe Flacco had connected on one of five that I can recall immediately, the Ravens would have won.

Flacco just had a bad day and still has to learn when to throw the deep ball on a line and when to put air under it.

For this team to move to the next level, he has to improve his play against quality teams. Also, give the Steelers' defense some credit. Before the game, they were ranked No. 1 and led the NFL in just about every major defensive category.

Watch out, Dallas

Lewis had seven tackles against the Steelers, but he didn't look like the player we've seen the rest of the season.

Lewis got held and taken down several times by Steelers offensive linemen, but he also allowed runners to slip through his tackles several times Sunday, which is almost unheard of over his 13-year career.

He looked tired and bigger than he has all season. Usually when Lewis plays a bad game, which is a good game by most players' standards, he rebounds with a strong performance the next week.

The Cowboys' running game could be in for a long evening Saturday.

They've come a long way

Now that the big game is over, let's all take a deep breath and get a reality check. Most teams that start a rookie quarterback and rookie head coach in the season opener usually finish about 6-10.

Running problem

Let's hope rookie running back Ray Rice is ready for the Dallas game. At this point, veteran Willis McGahee is hurting the Ravens more than helping them.

Those dropped passes and missed blocks in pass protection have been costly.

Listen to Mike Preston on Mondays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Fox Sports (1370 AM).

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