Ravens' secondary in line for a test Packers capable of stretching unit

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis has given out the orders to his secondary this week: Move fast, be confident or get humiliated.

It is a short, simple and realistic message.

"The offense we're about to face has great execution," said Lewis. "They do an excellent job of stretching defenses horizontally and vertically. They have proven receivers complemented by a running game. There must be a premium on quickness on defense, or you can get really embarrassed."

Quarterback Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers can do that to a defense. Last season, wide receiver Robert Brooks caught 102 passes and Favre threw for 4,413 yards and earned league Most Valuable Player honors.

Favre brings the Packers' West Coast offense to Memorial Stadium on Saturday night when they meet the Ravens in preseason game No. 3.

"They take whatever you give them, but they'll take the 5 and turn it into 70," said Ravens free safety Eric Turner. "But they'll take the 70-yarder too. The thing about Favre is that his arm is so strong that he puts it in places where you don't think he can throw it.

"There are only a couple of guys around the league like that," Turner added. "John Elway. Dan Marino. Warren Moon can still do it. You can have great coverage but relax for one second, and whoah, it's over."

That's why the Ravens look forward to playing Green Bay. No team has tested their secondary yet. The Philadelphia Eagles basically had a short passing game, and the New York Giants had none.

Now here comes the total package.

"The big test," said Ravens safety Vashone Adams.

It will be an intriguing matchup because the Ravens' secondary was toasted for 238.9 passing yards per game last season after allowing only 197.3 in 1994.

What happened?

The Ravens blame it on injuries.

Turner, an All-Pro, missed the second half of last season with a back injury. Cornerback Antonio Langham started all 16 games last season, but played most of the season with strained ligaments in his thumbs. He wasn't close to the form that made him the NFLPA defensive rookie of the year in 1994.

Starting safety Stevon Moore had a great season and was selected as the first Pro Bowl alternate, but Don Griffin, the other starting cornerback, struggled with ligament damage in his wrist most of the season.

The Ravens cut Griffin in the off-season.

"The injuries just kept mounting," said Adams. "But I believe we now have one of the strongest units on the team. We have athletic ability and each one of us can run and tackle. We can play man to man, each corner or safety on our team. Maybe the best thing is that we have people who can step up and do the job on both the first and second teams."

They have in training camp thus far, with safeties Moore, Turner, Adams and Bennie Thompson crunching everything in sight.

But Turner knows everything will have to be proven on the field.

"We have the potential to be great, but we have to prove ourselves," said Turner.

There are still some questions to be answered. It has become apparent that teams are going to go after Issac Booth, a third-year player who replaced Griffin and has struggled during the first two preseason games.

Secondly, the Ravens and formerly the Browns have gone through three different defensive coordinators the past three years.

They're still in the process of learning the terminology.

"That's probably the biggest difference," said Adams. "It's learning to feel comfortable with the terminology. Once we get that down, I think our athletic ability will take over and we'll be more aggressive when the regular season gets here."

The Packers will give the Ravens a number of different looks. While Brooks led the team in receptions last season, running back Edgar Bennett was second with 61.

But what really sets the Packers apart are tight ends Mark Chmura and Keith Jackson. Both are big and can go deep. Packers coach Mike Holmgren has even gone to a two tight-end set at times.

"Those two can give you all kinds of trouble," said Turner. "It's unusual to have two like that on the same team."

The Ravens look forward to the test of stopping Favre's quick three-step dropback and the Packers' ability to turn short passes into long yards. Someone also has to hold down Brooks, two talented tight ends and a solid receiver out of the backfield.

"We are about to take on one of the elite in the NFL," said Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda.

Next for Ravens

Opponent: Green Bay Packers

Site: Memorial Stadium

When: Saturday, 7 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)

Ravens schedule

Exhibition

Date ........... Opponent .......... Time/Results

Aug. 3 ......... Philadelphia ...... W, 17-9

Aug. 10 ........ at NY Giants ...... W, 37-27

Saturday ....... Green Bay ......... 7 p.m.

Aug. 23 ........ at Buffalo ........ 7:30 p.m.

Regular season

Sept. 1 ........ Oakland ........... 1 p.m.

Sept. 8 ........ at Pittsburgh ..... 1 p.m.

Sept. 15 ....... at Houston ........ 1 p.m.

Sept. 22 ....... Bye week

Sept. 29 ....... New Orleans ....... 1 p.m.

Oct. 6 ......... New England ....... 1 p.m.

Oct. 13 ........ at Indianapolis ... 8 p.m.

Oct. 20 ........ at Denver ......... 4 p.m.

Oct. 27 ........ St. Louis ......... 1 p.m.

Nov. 3 ......... Cincinnati ........ 1 p.m.

Nov. 10 ........ at Jacksonville ... 4 p.m.

Nov. 17 ........ at San Fran. ...... 4 p.m.

Nov. 24 ........ Jacksonville ...... 1 p.m.

Dec. 1 ......... Pittsburgh ........ 1 p.m.

Dec. 8 ......... at Cincinnati ..... 1 p.m.

Dec. 15 ........ at Carolina ....... 1 p.m.

Dec. 22 ........ Houston ........... 1 p.m.

Ravens roll call

Leroy Hoard

Pos.: Running back

Height: 5-11

Weight: 225

Age: 28

College: Michigan

Year: 7th

How acquired: 1990 draft, second round

Highlights: Powerful back who was AFC Pro Bowl fullback in 1994, but a rib injury slowed his production last season. Still led the Browns in rushing with 547 yards in 12 starts, but had just 13 receptions (fewest since rookie season). Averages 30 receptions per season. In 1994, led the Browns in rushing with a career-high 890 yards on 209 carries. Has 4,433 combined yards and 24 TDs in six NFL seasons, including 550 rushes for 2,203 yards and 10 TDs, plus 177 receptions for 1,849 yards and 14 TDs. Played both tailback and fullback at Michigan. Played in three Rose Bowls. Earned third-team All-America honors by the Poor Man's Guide to the NFL Draft, and honorable mention All-Big Ten by AP.

Personal: Lettered in football, baseball and track at St. Augustine High School in New Orleans. An avid bowler, he received a special exemption by the Professional Bowlers Association that allowed him to compete in the Greater Baltimore Open last May (he finished 159th out of 160 bowlers). Participated in Swim for Diabetes and a Celebrity Shoot-out for the Special Olympics. Education major.

Sale Isaia

Pos.: Offensive lineman

Height: 6-5

Weight: 315

Age: 24

College: UCLA

Year: 2nd

How acquired: 1995 free agent

Highlights: A good all-around athlete who made the switch from defense to offense at UCLA in '94 season. Works at right guard. Spent rookie season on injured reserve (ankle). As a defensive lineman at UCLA, recorded 53 tackles, one sack and five tackles for losses. Played final two college games on offense.

Personal: Was selected second team All-State, first team All-San Diego and All-Avocado League as a senior at Oceanside (Calif.) High School. Lettered in basketball and track (discus and shot put). Won league title in the discus. Enjoys playing basketball, fishing and lifting weights. Helped in an off-season charity benefiting the Boys and Girls Club of Oceanside. Majored in political science. Cousin of Chargers linebacker Junior Seau.

Pub Date: 8/14/96

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