Each week Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda watched receiver/return specialist Jermaine Lewis improve, and last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers the rookie from the University of Maryland had a significant impact.
Lewis, a fifth-round pick, returned a punt 46 yards to the Steelers' 1-yard line to set up a 1-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Vinny Testaverde to rookie guard Jonathan Ogden, the first touchdown in the Ravens' 31-17 win over the Steelers. Lewis has developed from a shy rookie who hesitated going through the first wave of return teams to a player who has shown great explosion in the past two weeks.
Lewis is averaging 21.4 yards a kickoff and 10.4 on punt returns, and Marchibroda has slowly worked him into the offense as the fourth receiver. Lewis has two receptions for 35 yards.
"He has performed well as a receiver and return guy," Marchibroda said. "I think it was about two or three weeks ago that he returned a punt 28 yards, and in that game I think he found his confidence. I anticipate he'll play more and I think he is a great find as a fifth-round pick."
Ravens cornerback Antonio Langham has lined up against Bengals star wide receiver Carl Pickens since the days when both played in the Southeastern Conference, Langham with Alabama and Pickens at Tennessee.
They'll meet again Sunday in Cincinnati.
Pickens has 82 catches for 1,002 yards and 10 touchdowns. Lang- ham knocked down two passes to Pickens during the first game between the teams before leaving with a hamstring injury at halftime. Pickens finished with six catches for 65 yards.
"He's a great receiver and it starts with his work habits," Lang- ham said. "He's in an offense with a great scheme and has a great quarterback. He has great competitiveness and I look forward to playing against him."
Pickens may see some double coverage.
"We may give Antonio a little help," Marchibroda said. "Carl is a top-notch receiver. He has beaten a lot of people around the league."
'A' for Ogden
Bengals coach Bruce Coslet has been impressed with Ogden, the Ravens' top draft pick last April out of UCLA, where he played offensive tackle.
"They did a smart thing with Ogden," Coslet said. "They put him inside playing with a lot of veterans. We were impressed with him coming out of college; he's big, strong and quick. Whether they move him outside next year does nothing but help him with game experience."
Here is a list of the Ravens' 12 free agents, the first 11 unrestricted: guard Jeff Blackshear, linebackers Mike Caldwell, Mike Croel, Keith Goganious, Jerrol Williams and Ed Sutter, tight end Eric Green, safety Stevon Moore, running back Carwell Gardner, wide receiver Floyd Turner and defensive tackle Anthony Pleasant. Center Steve Everitt is the team's transition player. Scott Brumfield, the Bengals offensive linemen who suffered a severe neck injury Nov. 3 at Memorial Stadium, is using crutches but the Bengals don't know yet if he'll play again. "It depends on what the doctors say and right now they don't know," Coslet said. Green (knee), Everitt (pectoral), cornerback DeRon Jenkins (thigh) and safety Bennie Thompson (court appearance) did not practice yesterday. All four are expected to play Sunday.
Ravens (4-9) at Bengals (5-8)
Site: Cinergy Field, Cincinnati
Time: 1 p.m.
TV/Radio: Ch. 11/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)
Line: Bengals by 3
Last meeting: Bengals beat Ravens, 24-21, at Memorial Stadium on Nov. 3
Pub Date: 12/06/96