Matchups point to real tests for McAlister; Rams' Bruce, Holt likely to face rookie cornerback


Making his first real professional game that much more interesting, cornerback Chris McAlister could be matched up against one of the NFC's best receivers in Isaac Bruce or fellow first-round pick Torry Holt when the Ravens face the St. Louis Rams Sunday.

McAlister said he does not know a lot about the Rams' receivers now but he will by game time. Bruce missed 11 games last year with a hamstring injury but holds the all-time record for catches in his first three seasons (224). Holt, the first receiver taken, with the sixth pick in the NFL draft, led North Carolina State last season with 88 catches for 1,609 yards and 11 touchdowns.

"I'm going to look into them," McAlister said. "At this point now I want to make sure that I have all of my techniques down. I haven't put a lot of emphasis on those two yet. I'm just trying to work on staying sound and doing everything fundamentally correct."

He had a good preseason, leading the Ravens in passes defensed (four) and recording an interception. McAlister also was second on the team in tackles with 16, while challenging cornerback DeRon Jenkins for his starting spot.

McAlister does acknowledge that the preseason is different from what he is going to go through in the regular season. If the Rams put Pro Bowler Bruce in the slot when McAlister comes in on passing situations, he will get a good taste of just how different.

"I'm not nervous," McAlister said. "It is football. The level of competition changes as you move on."

Nord ready to develop

Wide receiver Kendrick Nord had the news of not making the team softened when coach Brian Billick told Nord he wanted to keep him on the practice squad.

Nord said he was not disappointed because he knew the Ravens had a lot of receivers, and he is looking forward to his role on the team.

"I'm real happy about coming back here," Nord said. "Coach Billick wants to develop me. I feel like I have enough potential to play on this level. I just need to learn more at the receiving spot. I'm watching the older guys. I'm going to start watching films on some of the great players that have played the game."

Receiver is still a relatively new position for Nord. He started at quarterback for three years at Grambling. He switched to receiver while in the Philadelphia Eagles' training camp as an undrafted free agent in 1996, then went back to quarterback for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League in 1997. He switched back to receiver with the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League last season.

"As far as my game time, practice is my game time," Nord said. "I'm going to play like it is a game and work hard. It is a blessing just to be here, to be in the NFL and learn."

Mentor for Sharper

Linebacker Jamie Sharper plans to take advantage of having former NFL player Jack Del Rio as coach this season.

Although Del Rio played in the middle, Sharper said the coach has been able to help him as an outside linebacker, especially in pass coverage -- an area that has not been one of Sharper's strongest suits.

"I'm getting better in that," Sharper said. "This preseason has helped me out a lot. Having Del Rio give me some techniques that he used at linebacker helped me out. Now I just have to bring it over from the preseason to the regular season."

He may not have to worry about covering the tight end a lot Sunday against the Rams, who rely more on their skill position players. But Sharper knows that he will be counted on during the season.

"I'm trying to make big plays, get interceptions and break up passes," Sharper said. "Blanket coverage. It feels as though we can get more sacks when guys are covered up."

Next for Ravens

Regular-season opener

Opponent: St. Louis Rams

Site: Trans World Dome, St. Louis

When: Sunday, 1 p.m. TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)

Line: Even

Pub Date: 9/10/99

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