Given all the time and energy Art Modell has spent defending
himself in the 19 months since he yanked his team out of
Cleveland and moved to Baltimore, it's no surprise that the
Ravens owner has spent a great deal of money on defense. This
past off-season Modell acted out of necessity, coughing up cash
for two free-agent linemen and a pair of highly drafted
linebackers. Otherwise, the man who moved the Browns might have
become as unpopular in Baltimore as he is in his former home.
Baltimore fans who had stopped paying close attention to
football after the Colts moved to Indianapolis in 1984 must have
been perplexed during the Ravens' first season. Baltimore
surrendered an NFL-high 368.1 yards per game and also finished
at the bottom in pass defense, which tends to happen when a team
is as weak in the secondary as the Ravens were last year.
Baltimore also put up a feeble front in '96. "I wouldn't care if
we had four Deion Sanderses in the secondary," says defensive
end Rob Burnett, an eight-year veteran who missed much of the
'96 season after tearing ligaments in his right knee. "It's
still up to us, the front seven, and last year we were in
disarray." Injuries to Burnett and since-departed lineman Dan
Footman forced defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis to junk a 4-3
alignment after six games and switch to the 3-4 zone blitz he
had helped implement as a Steelers assistant.
So while coach Ted Marchibroda and quarterback Vinny Testaverde
were turning the Ravens into an un-Brownslike offensive
juggernaut--Baltimore scored 371 points, fourth in the AFC--the
defense couldn't stop anybody, especially when it counted most.
The Ravens blew second-half leads in eight of their last 11
games and finished 4-12.
"What a waste," Burnett says. "In Cleveland we never had
anything close to that kind of offensive production. Last year's
offense was a dream come true, and we couldn't support them."
Replacements began arriving soon after the season ended. The
Ravens rebuilt the right side of their defensive line through
free agency, signing run-stopping tackle Tony Siragusa, a
longtime member of the Colts who is coming off knee surgery, and
pass-rushing end Michael McCrary, who emerged as a force for the
Seahawks last season when he had 13 1/2 sacks, tying the Bills'
Bruce Smith for top honors in the AFC. The draft yielded three
prospective starters: outside linebackers Peter Boulware and
Jamie Sharper, and free safety Kim Herring. Throw in tackle
James Jones and a healthy Burnett, a Pro Bowl performer in '94,
and Marchibroda has cause for optimism.
"Abilitywise, our front four can compare with anybody in the
league," Marchibroda says. "The linebackers are a talented
group. We're hoping their ability can overcome their
It will take time, of course. "Going from high school to college
is a jump," Siragusa says. "Going from college to the pros is a
pole vault." This bunch will have to learn on the fly. Middle
linebacker Ray Lewis, the senior member of the group, had a
team-leading 142 tackles as a rookie last season. It will be
especially tough for Boulware, the fourth pick in the draft. His
negotiations dragged on until mid-August, and he was the final
'97 draftee to come to terms, signing a six-year, $18.5 million
deal on Aug. 18.
The Ravens are praying that Boulware, who led the nation with 19
sacks while playing end for Florida State last season, can make
a quick transition to linebacker. But if Boulware and the rest
of the front seven don't produce, 1997 might start looking a lot
like last season.
COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER With solid off-season additions like Siragusa and Herring (20), the Ravens may finally be able to get a handle on their defensive problems. [Tony Siragusa and Kim Herring tackling New York Jets player]
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 13
quarterbacks in the Pro Football Hall of Fame have 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
Int. Att. Pct.
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
Baltimore has an early opportunity to atone for last season's
dismal 1-7 showing against AFC Central teams. Four of its first
six games are against division rivals, including home matchups
the first two weeks against Jacksonville (sans Mark Brunell) and
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE
NFL rank: 16
Opponents' 1996 winning percentage: .492
Games against playoff teams: 5
The Lineup With 1996 Statistics
Coach: Ted Marchibroda
QB Vinny Testaverde 549 att. 325 comp. 59.2% 4,177 yds.
33 TDs 19 int. 88.7 rtg.
RB Earnest Byner 159 att. 634 yds. 4.0 avg. 30 rec.
270 yds. 9.0 avg. 5 TDs
FB Steve Lee (R)[*] 9 att. 30 yds. 3.3 avg. 13 rec.
134 yds. 10.3 avg. 0 TDs
Receivers, Specialists, Offensive Linemen
WR Michael Jackson 76 rec. 1,201 yds. 14 TDs
WR Derrick Alexander 62 rec. 1,099 yds. 9 TDs
WR Jermaine Lewis 5 rec. 78 yds. 1 TD
TE Brian Kinchen 55 rec. 581 yds. 1 TD
PK Matt Stover 34/35 PATs 19/25 FGs 91 pts.
KR Jermaine Lewis 41 ret. 21.5 avg. 0 TDs
PR Jermaine Lewis 36 ret. 9.4 avg. 0 TDs
LT Jonathan Ogden 6'8" 320 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
LG Leo Goeas[*] 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[*] 45 tackles 2 sacks
RE Michael McCrary[*] 76 tackles 13 1/2 sacks
OLB Peter Boulware (R)[*] 66 tackles 19 sacks
MLB Ray Lewis 142 tackles 2 1/2 sacks
OLB Jamie Sharper (R)[*] 123 tackles 7 sacks
CB Antonio Langham 51 tackles 5 int.
SS Stevon Moore 97 tackles 1 int.
FS Kim Herring (R)[*] 79 tackles 7 int.
CB Donny Brady 74 tackles 0 int.
P Greg Montgomery 68 punts 43.8 avg.
Rookie statistics for final college year