James Roe and Floyd Turner barely have been noticed this year, but with the Ravens reeling from injuries to starters Jermaine Lewis and Michael Jackson, the value of those backup receivers has risen markedly.
A day after a 38-31 victory over the Indianapolis Colts, a game in which Roe and Turner each caught a touchdown pass -- including the first of Roe's three-year career -- the Ravens were preparing to start the pair against Tennessee on Sunday.
"Floyd is a veteran who came through. James is not a guy who was playing for the first time," Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda said. "We believed in both of those guys."
With the injuries to Lewis and Jackson, the Ravens have little choice but to stay that course.
Lewis suffered a high right ankle sprain early in the second half of the Colts game, and was on crutches with his ankle in a cast after the game. A magnetic resonance imaging yesterday revealed Lewis had suffered enough tissue damage in his lower leg to knock him out of action this week, and possibly longer. Jackson also had an MRI yesterday. It showed no fractures in his foot, but still left his status for the Oilers game questionable at best.
Assuming neither Jackson nor Lewis will play Sunday, the Ravens are scrambling to replenish depth at the receiver position. Their only remaining healthy wide-out is rookie Patrick Johnson, who has irked the coaching staff with a recent string of dropped passes.
The team has talked about re-signing veteran Ryan Yarborough, whom they cut a month ago. Angelo Wright, Yarborough's agent, did not return phone calls yesterday. The Ravens also are considering the promotion of rookie Phil Savoy from their practice roster.
"I'm happy [the Ravens] are even considering me," said Savoy, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound rookie out of Colorado, who was drafted by Arizona in the seventh round. "I'm just going to go out there every day and compete and show them I can be a quality player."
The loss of Lewis deprives the Ravens of their most explosive scoring threat. Lewis leads the team with eight touchdowns, two as a punt returner. He has accounted for seven gains of more than 50 yards, tops in the NFL.
"We have a good receiving corps," Lewis said. "Floyd has been in the league. And we've all seen James Roe make plays in practice. We know he can do it."
The Ravens would like to see Roe, 6-1, 187, a sixth-round draft pick out of Norfolk State, solidify his hold on a starting position, since they are not planning to pick up the option on Jackson in 1999.
Roe, coming off his first start of the year, already has more touchdowns in 1998 than Jackson, who is the only wide-out on the team not to get into the end zone this year. Jackson, after scoring a career-high 14 touchdowns in 1996, has four in his past 27 games.
"I'm very thankful the organization had faith in me. I've been patient. Hopefully, that will pay off," said Roe, who came to camp with a shot at the No. 3 receiver spot, but fell behind with a nagging hamstring injury. Of his first score, he said, "It was a good rush. Hopefully, many more will come after this, and I can start collecting [footballs] like Emmitt Smith."
Turner, a nine-year veteran who signed before training camp and was envisioned by the Ravens as a key contributor in the slot, has languished without playing time for most of the season. Through 12 games, Turner has just 13 catches for 208 yards and two touchdowns.
Turner referred to his sudden elevation on the depth chart as "a process of elimination."
"There's a difference between knowing you're going to play and assuming that you might," Turner added. "As far as my expectations and hopes, I don't have any. I'll be ready to take my game up another notch [as a starter]."
Marchibroda, who has played Johnson ahead of Turner as the No. 3 receiver this year, defended his use of Turner, who did not play in 1997 but has 272 receptions for 3,667 yards and 29 touchdowns in his career.
"There are two guys [Jackson and Lewis] in front of Floyd, and we haven't gone to three wide receivers [formations] as we have in the past," Marchibroda said. "We wanted to bring Patrick along, but he didn't come along as fast as we thought he would."
NOTE: In the wake of their victory over the Colts, the Ravens plan to present a game ball to former Gov. William Donald Schaefer, now the state comptroller-elect.
Next for Ravens
Opponent: Tennessee Oilers
Site: Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, Tenn.
When: Sunday, 4: 15 p.m.
TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)
Line: Oilers by 6
Pub Date: 12/01/98