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5 Baltimore Ravens Will a new-look backfield--featuring a man who's ready to throw his considerable weight around--plus a new offensive philosophy add up to more wins?

Aug. 17, 1998
Aug. 17, 1998

Table of Contents
Aug. 17, 1998

Baseball
NFL Preview 1998

5 Baltimore Ravens Will a new-look backfield--featuring a man who's ready to throw his considerable weight around--plus a new offensive philosophy add up to more wins?

Hanging from some monkey bars at the Ravens' training camp in
Westminster, Md., is a tremendously large, blue tackling bag.
It's called Big Brutus 01. In one of his first-day drills, coach
Ted Marchibroda had his running backs ram into Brutus as if it
were John Randle disguised as, well, a big blue bag.

This is an article from the Aug. 17, 1998 issue

First, Tony Vinson went thud!

Then Errict Rhett. Pop!

Then Jay Graham. Pow!

Finally, along came Roosevelt Potts, Baltimore's newly acquired
6-foot, 250-pound monster of a fullback: ka-BOOOOM! Big Brutus
01 swung high into the air. The monkey bars wobbled. The ground,
onlookers swore, quaked.

Baltimore, meet Roosevelt.

"Rosie's a warrior," says Jim Harbaugh, the Ravens' new
quarterback. "He's a dominant type of player, strong and fast.
With that power, you don't want to mess with him."

AFC Central rivals will have no choice. After spending the past
two years waiting for Vinny Testaverde's extremely strong,
extremely erratic right arm to take them somewhere beyond the
cellar (it never did), the Ravens have ripped apart the playbook
and started anew. Remember those 50-yard hit-or-miss fly
patterns to Jermaine Lewis? Forget 'em. Excited about Harbaugh's
throwing the deep post to Michael Jackson? Don't hold your breath.

Marchibroda, tired of last year's flashy-but-ineffective attack
(326 points, 11th in the AFC), brought in some horses to run
behind one of the league's most physical offensive lines. The
Ravens bid farewell to Bam Morris and Earnest Byner, who
combined for 1,087 yards last year, and dealt a 1999 third-round
draft pick to Tampa Bay for Rhett, a two-time 1,000-yard rusher
who will complement Graham at tailback. The 27-year-old Potts,
who signed as a free agent in February, was Marshall Faulk's
road paver in Indianapolis before joining the Dolphins last
season. And Harbaugh, 34 and a few years removed from the
Captain Comeback tag, arrives by way of trade from the Colts to
replace the released Testaverde. "I wanted to get some players
who know what it's like to win," says Marchibroda, who as he
begins his third season is already hearing rumors about his job
security. "Rosie Potts was in the playoffs last year with Miami.
Rhett was there with Tampa Bay. And Jim--he knows every method
for pulling out a football game. That kind of stuff is
contagious."

That sounds good; but now consider this: Last year at this time,
Rhett's number 32 new-style Bucs jersey was selling for $45 in
Foot Lockers nationwide. By last January, after a 31-carry
season, the shirt could be had at Marshall's for eight bucks.
This was the same player who, just two seasons earlier, had
rumbled for 1,207 yards and 11 touchdowns. "Last year had
nothing to do with talent and nothing to do with ability," says
Rhett, who blames a contract dispute for his decreased playing
time. "Now I'm ready to show what I've got again. I expect big
things. Everyone goes for 1,000 yards. I want 2,000."

Sure, Errict. Although Marchibroda promises Rhett will get his
share of carries, the Ravens will operate with a backfield by
committee. That means Graham, the stocky second-year pro from
Tennessee, will start and Rhett will come off the bench, with
each getting 10-20 touches a game. The biggest (and not just
girthwise) addition-question mark is Potts. As an unheralded
Colts rookie five years ago, he rushed for 711 punishing yards.
The next April the Colts drafted Faulk, and Potts's yardage
dropped to 336. In 1995 he ran for just 309 yards in 15 games.
Despite the drop in workload, he averaged 4.2 yards per carry in
his first three seasons. Then the bottom fell out. Potts failed
a drug test and was suspended for the '96 season. Last year,
after holding out until Aug. 11, he appeared in two games with
the Colts before being released. He was picked up by the
Dolphins and played in six more. He carried once for each team,
for a total of four yards.

"This is my second chance," says Potts, whom Marchibroda coached
for three years with the Colts. "The first time I was a
second-round pick, and I had to do it all myself. Now I'm being
treated like a first-rounder. Ted's told me that in Indianapolis,
with Marshall around, he never really gave me a fair opportunity.
Now he's giving it to me."

Marchibroda loves the way Potts blocks. He loves his soft hands
(73 catches in three full seasons). Most of all, he loves the
idea of taking a "what ever happened to...?" and turning him
into an All-Pro. Graham and Rhett will get first shots, but
Marchibroda sees Potts as his eventual go-to guy, a 1,000-yard,
30-40 catch player.

"I've had most of the last two seasons off," says Potts. "Some
may see that as rust. Me? I think it's more about being fresh.
This is my time." He pauses. "Again." --J.P.

COLOR PHOTO: AL TIELEMANS RUN SUPPORT If things go according to plan, Potts will shoulder an increasingly heavy load in the Ravens' revamped rushing attack. [Roosevelt Potts in game]B/W PHOTO: MITCHELL LAYTON Boulware [Peter Boulware]

Schedule

Sept. 6 PITTSBURGH
13 at N.Y. Jets
20 at Jacksonville
27 CINCINNATI
Oct. 4 OPEN DATE
11 TENNESSEE
18 at Pittsburgh
25 at Green Bay
Nov. 1 JACKSONVILLE
8 OAKLAND
15 at San Diego
22 at Cincinnati
29 INDIANAPOLIS
Dec. 6 at Tennessee
13 MINNESOTA
20 at Chicago
27 DETROIT

Fast Facts

1997 Record 6-9-1 (5th in AFC Central) NFL rank (rush/pass/total): offense 22/5/9; defense 10/28/25

1998 Schedule strength NFL rank: 11 (tie) Opponents' 1997
winning percentage: .504 Games against playoff teams: 7

Starting Young

In 1997 the average age of the Ravens' starting linebackers--Peter
Boulware, Ray Lewis, Jamie Sharper and Cornell Brown (who started
one game in place of Sharper)--was only 22.7 years (based on the
game-day age of each starting linebacker). That's the youngest
average age for the starting linebackers of any NFL team since
the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. (The oldest crew, by the way, was that
of the 1995 Falcons, whose trio of Clay Matthews, Darryl Talley
and Jessie Tuggle averaged 35.2 years.)

Linebackers who started at least half of their team's games Avg. age

1997 Ravens Peter Boulware, Ray Lewis, Jamie Sharper 22.7
1977 Buccaneers Cecil Johnson, Dave Lewis, Dewey Selmon,
Richard Wood 23.4
1978 Seahawks Terry Beeson, Keith Butler, Sammy Green 23.6
1980 Falcons Buddy Curry, Fulton Kuykendall, Al Richardson,
Joel Williams 23.7

Inside Slant

The Ravens could have one of the league's best linebacking
crews, keyed by second-year OLB Peter Boulware, who bulked up 15
pounds in the off-season in anticipation of facing more double
teams. The wild card is another second-year man, Jamie Sharper,
whose inconsistent play led to a midseason benching last
year.... Images of former 49ers cornerback Rod Woodson's
horrendous '97 postseason, during which he was victimized time
and again, sprang back to life during his first practice as a
Raven. Wide receiver Jermaine Lewis welcomed Woodson to
Baltimore by burning him badly on a fly pattern.... Over the
past two seasons the Ravens are 3-10-1 in games decided by four
points or less.... After playing home games in Memorial Stadium
since 1996, the Ravens move into their new $220 million,
publicly funded stadium, located just south of the Orioles'
Camden Yards.

Projected Lineup With 1997 statistics

Coach: Ted Marchibroda
Third season with Ravens (81-88-1 in NFL)

Offensive Backs PVR*

QB Jim Harbaugh[N] 116[PVR*] 309 att. 189 comp. 61.2%
2,060 yds. 10 TDs 4 int. 86.2 rtg.

RB Jay Graham 125[PVR*] 81 att. 299 yds. 3.7 avg.
12 rec. 51 yds. 4.3 avg. 2 TDs

FB Roosevelt Potts[N] 376[PVR*] 2 att. 4 yds. 2.0 avg.
3 rec. 27 yds. 9.0 avg. 0 TDs

RB Errict Rhett[N] 75[PVR*] 31 att. 96 yds. 3.1 avg.
0 rec. 0 yds. N.A. 3 TDs

Receivers, Specialists, Offensive Linemen

WR Michael Jackson 60[PVR*] 69 rec. 918 yds. 4 TDs
WR Jermaine Lewis 119[PVR*] 42 rec. 648 yds. 6 TDs
WR James Roe 246[PVR*] 7 rec. 124 yds. 0 TDs
TE Eric Green 100[PVR*] 65 rec. 601 yds. 5 TDs
K Matt Stover 222[PVR*] 32/32 XPs 26/34 FGs 110 pts.
PR Pat Johnson (R)[N] 292[PVR*] 21 ret. 11.9 avg. 1 TD
KR Tyrone Hughes[N] 389[PVR*] 43 ret. 23.4 avg. 0 TDs
LT Jonathan Ogden 6'8" 318 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
LG Steve Atkins[N] 6'6" 306 lbs. 13 games 13 starts
C Wally Williams 6'2" 305 lbs. 10 games 10 starts
RG Jeff Blackshear 6'6" 323 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
RT Orlando Brown 6'7" 340 lbs. 16 games 16 starts

Defense

LE Rob Burnett 40 tackles 4 sacks
LT James Jones 52 tackles 6 sacks
RT Tony Siragusa 27 tackles 0 sacks
RE Michael McCrary 69 tackles 9 sacks
OLB Peter Boulware 58 tackles 11 1/2 sacks
MLB Ray Lewis 184 tackles 4 sacks
OLB Jamie Sharper 68 tackles 3 sacks
CB Duane Starks (R)[N] 87 tackles 3 int.
SS Stevon Moore 76 tackles 4 int.
FS Kim Herring 62 tackles 0 int.
CB Rod Woodson[N] 48 tackles 3 int.
P Greg Montgomery 83 punts 42.7 avg.

[N]New acquisition (R) Rookie (statistics for final college
year) *PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 88)