After a practice at the Ravens' facility in Owings Mills, Md.,
coach Ted Marchibroda sat down on a sun-soaked wooden bench near
the locker room door to address such grim topics as his team's
4-12 record in 1996 and his defense, which ranked last in the NFL.
As several of his new players passed by on their way inside,
however, a smile crept across Marchibroda's face. First a pair
of free-agent acquisitions, defensive end Michael McCrary and
nosetackle Tony Siragusa, plodded by. Then came rookie
linebackers Peter Boulware, Jamie Sharper and Tyrus McCloud.
Before too long, this parade of power had changed the coach's
"You win in the NFL by being a solid team," said Marchibroda.
"You win by not being weak in any of the three facets of the
game. Last year we were weak on defense, and during the
off-season we did everything we could to shore up our defense.
That's why I feel so much better about our football team this
Another reason for optimism is that the Ravens have been busy
establishing roots in Baltimore and putting their controversial
past behind them. Even the roster has begun to reflect that:
Many of the most popular former Cleveland Browns are gone,
including center Steve Everitt, tackle Tony Jones and safety
Eric Turner. "We're finally just the Ravens and not the former
Cleveland Browns," says tackle Orlando Brown, a team captain.
But the Ravens are stuck for one more season with nearly $7
million in cap money from six former Cleveland players no longer
on the roster. Nevertheless, player personnel director Ozzie
Newsome (himself a longtime Brown) significantly upgraded the
team's injury-riddled defense, which blew second-half leads in
eight of last season's final 11 games.
The 6'4", 265-pound McCrary led the AFC with 13 1/2 sacks for
Seattle last year, and the wide-body Siragusa, who missed six
games after having his right knee scoped, has regained the form
that helped anchor Indianapolis's drive to the 1995 AFC title
game. The Ravens' rotund one has also lightened things up a bit.
He kicked field goals in minicamp, made rabbit ears behind owner
Art Modell's head during a speech at a local elementary school
and tried to get a Marchibroda look-alike used in a Ravens TV
commercial to come out and yell at the rookies.
The real Marchibroda will rely heavily on his first-year
players, most of whom will immediately step into starter roles.
McCloud, a semifinalist for the Butkus Award (for the nation's
top college linebacker), was the strongest inside backer in the
draft. Boulware led the nation with 19 sacks at Florida State
and runs a 4.74 in the 40. Sharper clocks in at 4.64. Without
that kind of speed last year, defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis
found it nearly impossible to run his attacking 3-4 defense or
any of the zone blitzes he helped popularize as linebackers
coach in Pittsburgh from 1992 to '95.
More than speed, the Ravens need the knees of Siragusa and
defensive end Rob Burnett to stay healthy. This pair must help
put pressure on quarterbacks and take the game out of the hands
of Baltimore's secondary, which on the weak side is less
talented than a few CFL teams. If they fail, all the talented
rookies in the world won't save the Ravens.
Another draftee who impressed Marchibroda this summer was former
Tennessee running back and third-round pick Jay Graham. "His
speed and ability to catch the ball give us an added dimension,"
says the coach. "There are no limitations to the way we can use
this guy either in the regular offense or as a returner on
Graham's outside speed complements the smash-mouth running style
of Bam Morris. And Vinny Testaverde is coming off a career year;
he clicked with wideouts Michael Jackson (who tied for the NFL
lead with 14 touchdown receptions) and Derrick Alexander, and
threw for personal bests in yards (4,177) and TDs (33). But
here's the skinny on Vinny: His "career year" included twice as
many late-game collapses as victories.
One bright spot on offense is the young, physical line, which
features Jonathan Ogden, the fourth pick in last year's draft,
and Brown. When Marchibroda told Brown he was going to be a
captain, the fourth-year tackle laughed. "I told him I get into
way too many fights in practice and the games," says Brown. "He
said that was what he was looking for--a guy who could be an
enforcer on the field. Because things are gonna be different
No they're not. But please don't tell Orlando we said so. --D.F.
COLOR PHOTO INSET [REGIONAL] Rising Ravens? Vinny Testaverde Tries to Boost Baltimore
COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON With Ogden, the rebuilding Ravens are at least well-armed on the offensive line. [Jonathan Ogden in game]
BY THE NUMBERS
1996 Yards per Game (NFL rank)
1996 Record: 4-12 (fifth in AFC Central)
Rushing Passing Total
OFFENSE 109.1 (14) 248.6 (2) 357.7 (3)
DEFENSE 120.0 (23) 248.1 (30) 368.1 (30)
Hall of Fame Numbers?
Vinny Testaverde's career rate of 4.5 interceptions for every
100 passes is the second highest among active quarterbacks
(minimum 1,500 passes). Only Pittsburgh's Mike Tomczak has a
higher percentage (4.6). It is a reflection of the greater
precision in the modern-day NFL passing game that there are 13
quarterbacks in the Pro Football Hall of Fame with career
interception rates higher than Testaverde's.
Career Interception Percentages of Vinny Testaverde and 13 Hall
Int. Att. Pct.
Vinny Testaverde 168 3,707 4.5
Johnny Unitas 253 5,186 4.9
Len Dawson 183 3,741 4.9
Bob Griese 172 3,429 5.0
Terry Bradshaw 210 3,901 5.4
Y.A. Tittle 221 3,817 5.8
Joe Namath 220 3,762 5.8
Otto Graham 94 1,565 6.0
Norm Van Brocklin 178 2,895 6.1
Bobby Layne 243 3,700 6.6
Sammy Baugh 203 2,995 6.8
George Blanda 277 4,007 6.9
Sid Luckman 132 1,744 7.6
Bob Waterfield 128 1,617 7.9
PLAYER TO WATCH
Rookie Kim Herring, who takes over at free safety this year, saw
playing time at another position during his first season at Penn
State: tailback. The Ravens love the 1997 second-rounder's
speed; he has been timed at 4.35 in the 40. "He can run and
cover," says defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis of the 5'11"
199-pounder, whose seven interceptions led the Big Ten last
year. "He's a good tackler, and he was a leader at Penn State."
PROJECTED LINEUP With 1996 Statistics
Head Coach: Ted Marchibroda
Offensive Backs PVR*
QB Vinny Testaverde 79[*] 549 att. 325 comp. 59.2%
4,177 yds. 33 TDs 19 int.
RB Bam Morris 72[*] 172 att. 737 yds. 4.3 avg.
25 rec. 242 yds. 9.7 avg. 5 TDs
RB Earnest Byner 281[*] 159 att. 634 yds. 4.0 avg.
30 rec. 270 yds. 9.0 avg. 5 TDs
Receivers, Specialists, Offensive Linemen
WR Michael Jackson 51[*] 76 rec. 1,201 yds. 14 TDs
WR Derrick Alexander 89[*] 62 rec. 1,099 yds. 9 TDs
WR Jermaine Lewis 235[*] 5 rec. 78 yds. 1 TD
TE Brian Kinchen 134[*] 55 rec. 581 yds. 1 TD
PK Matt Stover 269[*] 34/35 XPs 19/25 FGs 91 pts.
KR Jermaine Lewis 235[*] 41 ret. 21.5 avg. 0 TDs
PR Jermaine Lewis 235[*] 36 ret. 9.4 avg. 0 TDs
LT Jonathan Ogden 6'8" 320 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
LG Leo Goeas[A] 6'4" 300 lbs. 16 games 13 starts
C Quentin Neujahr 6'4" 285 lbs. 5 games 0 starts
RG Jeff Blackshear 6'6" 323 lbs. 16 games 12 starts
RT Orlando Brown 6'7" 340 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
LE Rob Burnett 23 tackles 3 sacks
LT James Jones 37 tackles 1 sack
RT Tony Siragusa[A] 45 tackles 2 sacks
RE Michael McCrary[A] 76 tackles 13 1/2 sacks
OLB Jamie Sharper (R)[A] 123 tackles 7 sacks
MLB Ray Lewis 110 tackles 2 1/2 sacks
OLB Peter Boulware (R)[A] 66 tackles 19 sacks
CB Antonio Langham 51 tackles 5 int.
SS Stevon Moore 97 tackles 1 int.
FS Kim Herring (R)[A] 79 tackles 7 int.
CB Donny Brady 74 tackles 0 int.
P Greg Montgomery 68 punts 43.8 avg.
[A] New Acquisition (R) Rookie (college statistics)
[*] *PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 165)