Ravens report card


Quarterly review

Quarterbacks -- C- --Former starter Scott Mitchell was a disappointment and was benched after six quarters. Present starter Stoney Case is rusty and has had problems with blitzes and consistency. What happened to Tony Banks? Case threw for only 6 yards in the first half Sunday against the Falcons and wasn't pulled, which shows that Banks may never get to play.

Running backs -- B -- Errict Rhett is a new man and leads the AFC in rushing now that new coach Brian Billick has given him a starting role. Former starter Priest Holmes has been bothered by a knee injury, and Jay Graham hasn't been used at all. Fullback Chuck Evans has been solid as a blocker, but the Ravens could give him a few more carries because he has good acceleration for a big back.

Receivers -- C- -- Qadry Ismail has been a pleasant surprise on the outside and has been the most consistent of the bunch. Justin Armour and Jermaine Lewis are capable, but they've disappeared in the offense. Overall, the group hasn't been getting much separation from the defensive backs. The Ravens also need to get more production out of tight end Aaron Pierce. The team has converted on only 16 of 56 third-down situations (28.6 percent).

Offensive line -- C+ -- For a unit that has two new starters and was questionable at center, it has played well, especially in run blocking. A key will be keeping left tackle Jonathan Ogden healthy. The unit also has to do a better job of picking up blitzes. Two newcomers, guard Everett Lindsay and tackle Harry Swayne, have worked well with center Jeff Mitchell and guard Jeff Blackshear. Blackshear and Swayne can be overpowering, while Lindsay can play smash-mouth or be a technician.

Defensive line -- B -- Both starting tackles, Larry Webster and Tony Siragusa, have stuffed the gaps and runs inside, and when they haven't been healthy, young players such as Lional Dalton, Martin Chase and versatile lineman Fernando Smith have stepped in and played well. End Michael McCrary still has some slight rust, but he performs at a higher level than most of his peers even when bothered by his knee injury. The most pleasant surprise has been right end Rob Burnett, third on the team in tackles with 25. Seeking a new contract after this season may be spurring him on.

Linebackers -- A- -- This unit is the best on the team and at times has dominated games. Middle linebacker Ray Lewis leads the league in tackles with 56 and is one of the best at his position in the game. Strong-side linebacker Peter Boulware is playing with virtually one arm yet is tied for the league lead in sacks with five. The biggest surprise has been weak-side linebacker Jamie Sharper. He has been dominant against the run and making plays on special teams. This group's only weakness is in pass coverage.

Defensive backs -- C- -- Safety Rod Woodson has covered some of the best wide receivers in the league, but he can't stop Father Time. Woodson is showing all the signs of a player whose body is wearing down after 13 seasons in the league. Starting cornerback DeRon Jenkins has been giving up a lot of underneath passes and fellow starter Duane Starks is having problems covering every route. To be effective, Starks has to play up close instead of 10 yards off the line of scrimmage. Rookie and nickel back Chris McAlister has been the best player in the secondary.

Special teams -- C -- Kicker Matt Stover has been fairly consistent on field goals but needs to improve on kickoffs, which is why the team signed Joe Nedney this week. Kyle Richardson, one of the league's most consistent punters, had an off day against Atlanta last Sunday, but he'll rebound. The coverage units have improved in the past two games, but Jermaine Lewis has yet to break one for a touchdown as a punt returner.

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