S With the arrival of offensive-minded head coach Brian Billick, there's hope in Baltimore for the rejuvenation of the quarterback position. The ultimate task for Billick is to find a way to revitalize the career of Scott Mitchell. Mitchell had some success in Detroit, albeit with a much stronger supporting cast than he'll have in Baltimore. While nobody questions his tools, Mitchell must prove to Billick and his new teammates that he is the guy that can lead them deep into the playoffs. This team shopped backup Eric Zeier this off-season but it looks as though he'll return as the No. 2 guy. Wally Richardson is a capable third -stringer and continues to need time to develop.
Priest Holmes came out of nowhere, stepping in to fill a void at the position. Holmes ran for 99 or more yards in Baltimore's six wins. However, the knock on Holmes is his lack of consistency. Errict Rhett had a disappointing season after losing his job due to a hamstring injury in Week 2. He is an unrestricted free agent and is unlikely to re-sign with the Ravens. FB Roosevelt Potts is also an UFA and will not re-sign with Baltimore, which prompted the Ravens to sign Charles Evans from the Minnesota Vikings.
No. 1 Michael Jackson was left unprotected for the Brown's expansion draft, but wasn't selected. Jackson's lack of production and poor clubhouse attitude didn't match his $3.3 million salary last season. Jermaine Lewis is dangerous, but will need to improve his short to intermediate routes and reliability catching the football. Floyd Turner, James Roe and Patrick Johnson also saw significant time down the stretch and should fight for the No. 2 and No. 3 spots in '99. Turner was somewhat of the surprise of the bunch, starting three games and averaging 16 yards per catch on 32 receptions.
With the loss Eric Green to free agency, the Ravens were forced to sign Greg DeLong, formerly of the Minnesota Vikings. DeLong is an intelligent TE with versatility but he is not a frontline threat to defenses. Brian Kinchen will likely take the starting role. Kinchen is more of a pass down specialist, but has real trouble blocking at the point of attack. This looks to be a week spot for the team in '99.
Starting center Wally Williams and ROT Orlando Brown are both lost to free agency, but the Ravens took a step in the right direction by signing ROT Harry Swayne from Denver. Nonetheless, this unit seemed overmatched nearly every week, and there has not been enough improvement here to upgrade the unit. LOT Jonathan Ogden is a premier lineman in the league, but the rest of the line was mostly patchwork due to injuries throughout the season. Depth is a real need up front for Baltimore.
The play of the defensive line was a bright spot for this franchise in '98. Pro Bowl DE Michael McCrary was among the league leaders in sacks with 14.5 and played inspired football despite battling knee troubles. RDE Rob Burnette started all 16 games and continues to play stout run defense. The middle was also solid for the Ravens defense, but the loss of James Jones to Detroit will hurt. Veteran Tony Siragusa is solid at one tackle but will assuredly miss Jones' presence. DE Mike Frederick is an UFA, and doesn't seem to getting any stronger with age.
The Ravens have perhaps the best young talent in the league at this position in Peter Boulware, Ray Lewis and Jamie Sharper. Another year playing together as a unit may make all the difference. Kornell Brown saw the most action out of the backups, and even started a game in Boulware's absence. Brown will be back, but UFA MLB Jeff Kopp will likely go after lending little help to the Ravens in '98.
The corner position will remain the same. Duane Starks and Rob Woodson held their own in '98, but age is becoming more of a concern for Woodson. The Ravens will need to spell Woodson more in '99, but he proved capable of playing the position well with fresh legs. With this in mind, restricted FA's DeRon Jenkins and Donny Brady will be tendered offers. The two corners are going to have to fit into their role if this secondary is going to gel. Stevon Moore and Ralph Staten should both be back at their respective SS and FS positions. Moore was exceptional versus the run with 78 tackles this season, but needs to avoid giving up the big-play. Staten continues to play his position well. His has great range from sideline to sideline.
Jermaine Lewis was the special teams MVP with two punt returns for touchdowns and consistently putting the Ravens in good field position. PK Matt Stover remains a very consistent FG kicker, connecting on 21 of 28. However, his leg strength is a problem (all 7 misses were beyond the 40). Punter Kyle Richardson was very mediocre. He averaged 43.9 yards per punt, but does a good job of pinning teams inside the 20 when given the chance.