Marcus Nash is a former first-round draft pick in search of a home, and he hopes he has found one with the Ravens.
The Ravens placed rookie wide receiver Brandon Stokley on injured reserve yesterday with a dislocated shoulder he suffered in Thursday's 35-8 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. They replaced Stokley with Nash, who joined his third team since the Denver Broncos made him the 30th overall draft pick 18 months ago.
Nash, 6 feet 3, 195 pounds, took an unlikely path to Baltimore. As a rookie in Denver last year, he worked his way into the lineup for the final eight games of the regular season, then appeared in all three of the defending Super Bowl champion's postseason games. He caught four passes for 76 yards in 1998. He has yet to catch a pass this season.
Then, two games into the 1999 season, the Broncos traded Nash to the Miami Dolphins, who released him a week later on Sept. 28.
"Miami was a contract situation, and Denver just wasn't a match. I guess they just got impatient with me," said Nash, who signed a one-year deal with the Ravens. "I just want to try to fit in somewhere. I just wanted to know I was going to be here the rest of the year. I don't want to keep skipping teams."
Nash, who said he collected $1.4 million from the Broncos last year, played collegiately at Tennessee. He caught 177 passes for 2,447 yards and 20 touchdowns.
"What we get with Nash is upside potential," said Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' vice president of player personnel. "He was extremely productive at Tennessee and came into the league as a first-round pick. He's only 23 years old, has good size and is a quality person."
All defense, no offense
As the Ravens continue to stagnate on offense, their defense continues to ascend toward the top of the league rankings.
The Ravens now have the fifth-ranked defense in the NFL. They are giving up an average of 265 yards a game, and trail only Miami, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and league-leading Jacksonville in that department. The Ravens are ranked ninth against the rush and fifth against the pass.
On the other hand, the offense is ranked 25th, thanks mostly to the 28th-ranked pass offense, which is now being led by its third quarterback of 1999.
"It's a shame we're not better on offense, because this defense is the best with which I've been associated," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "They're playing with passion, intensity, and they play at a high physical level."
Middle linebacker Ray Lewis leads the league with 86 tackles, and is on a pace to shatter his career high of 210 from the 1997 season. Lewis is averaging 11.8 tackles a game for his 50-game career. He appears headed for his third Pro Bowl.
Outside linebacker Peter Boulware is tied for second in the NFL with six sacks.
Non-factor on offense
When he signed a one-year deal after leaving the Dallas Cowboys, wide receiver Billy Davis envisioned himself as a meaningful part of the offense.
As the season approaches its midpoint, Davis is established, but only on special teams, where he is tied with Bennie Thompson with nine tackles.
Davis has been a non-factor on offense. He has caught one pass for 8 yards -- this, a year after grabbing 39 receptions for 691 yards, both career highs.
"I'm doing what I'm asked to do, and I think I'm doing well. I was hoping to play wide receiver, but things just haven't worked out," said Davis, who has watched Qadry Ismail and Justin Armour, each of whom had established relationships with Billick, play in front of him.
"There are some things that are linked throughout the team, with guys who have been here since minicamp," added Davis, who signed with the Ravens after the team's final minicamp. "They feel more comfortable with guys who have more of a rapport with the staff and the system.
"Anyone who plays in the NFL will be put in a discouraging situation.
"I haven't gotten the opportunity [to play receiver]. When I do get it, I will make sure my thoughts are there and I can do well with them."
Don't read too much into it
Billick said there was no significance in the fact that Jermaine Lewis did not start against Kansas City. Ismail and Armour took the field initially with the base offense.
"We hadn't changed the configurations at all. Jermaine is in our regular [offensive] personnel. Justin is part of our tiger [package], and we went with that [to start the game]," Billick said.
James Atkins practiced at right tackle yesterday in place of Harry Swayne, who continues to recover from a lower leg bruise that has knocked him out of the past two games. Swayne is expected to practice by Thursday, in which case Billick said he would be comfortable re-inserting him into the starting lineup. Safety Kim Herring appears fully recovered from the left Achilles' strain he suffered against the Chiefs, although Stevon Moore worked at his position for part of yesterday's practice. . . . Backup tackle Spencer Folau (sprained knee) is not expected to return until Nov. 7.