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Ravens RB Lewis proving worthy of top-five selection
Posted: Wednesday November 22, 2000 11:23 AM
Updated: Sunday November 26, 2000 11:21 AM
By B. Duane Cross, CNNSI.com
Despite otherwise eye-popping numbers at the NFL Combine, Jamal Lewis was considered damaged goods. After a phenomenal freshman season at the University of Tennessee in 1997, he had season-ending knee surgery in '98, then tiptoed through his junior season and declared for the draft.
Here was one opinion as draft day neared:
"Was not the same back after his injury. Was a step slower, less durable and much less powerful. Did not show the same running vision and ran into piles instead of picking holes. ... Got so muscular that his muscles almost seemed to get in his way at times. ... Before his first knee injury, Lewis looked like a potential franchise back with a rare combination of size, speed, power and an explosive burst. He has good running vision and instincts, toughness, determination, terrific balance and body control, quick feet and very good hands. ... Will go high because of what he was and what he still may get back to being. But if he had returned to Tennessee for his senior year and regained the form he showed in '97 and early '98, he would have been a top-five pick in 2001."
|On The Run|
Rookies with the most rushing yards|
per start since 1990 (minimum eight starts)
|J. Bettis, LAR
|C. Martin, N.E.
|E. James, Ind.
|O. Gary, Den.
|J. Lewis, Bal.
| || |
Instead, Lewis was a top-five pick in 2000. In fact, he was the No. 5 overall pick and the first running back chosen. Some draft experts had Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne, Shaun Alexander and Thomas Jones projected as better backs.
So much for know-it-all draft "experts."
Lewis has three 100-yard rushing games this season, including a career-high 187 yards last week against Dallas. He leads all rookie running backs with 925 rushing yards.
Granted, success hinges on health, offensive system, number of carries, etc. But Lewis has played up to expectations. "When I got here," Lewis said, "I was brought along slowly by the coaches. I was used to playing a lot, but in retrospect, that helped me out. I'm pretty fresh.
"I haven't learned all I need to know, but when I do, it will make things easier on me. Right now, I'm just running with my natural ability."
And Lewis hasn't forgotten the ones make it possible. "The linemen deserve the credit," he said. "In fact, we're taking them out to dinner this week. They are big and physical and move people off the ball. They open the holes for Priest Holmes and me and give us three-to-four yards at the start. Then the rest is up to us."
| Gateway to the West |
St. Louis plays host to New Orleans with the idea of building a two-game lead in the NFC West. The injury-riddled Saints must win if they expect to remain in the playoff chase.
| Beasts of the East |
Philadelphia, which hasn't been in sole possession of first place this late in a season since 1988, visits Washington. The Redskins are one game back in the NFC East.
| Peyton's place |
Indianapolis welcomes AFC East leader Miami. The Dolphins have eight interceptions in four games against Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, the only QB to pass for a touchdown in each game this season.
| Passing fancy |
Green Bay visits Carolina on Monday night. Packers quarterback Brett Favre needs 374 yards passing for his ninth consecutive 3,000-yard season, tying Dan Marino.
| Flattery -- Chicago third-string QB Shane Matthews completed 20 of 34 passes for 165 yards as the Bears fended off Tampa Bay 13-10 for their third victory of the season. |
| Flag -- Bud Carson is not the savior of the St. Louis defense. The Rams have yielded an average of 32.4 points per game since his return and lost two of their past three games.
| Flattery -- Buffalo WR Eric Moulds leads the NFL with 76 receptions. He would be the first Bills receiver to lead the league in catches. Not bad, considering Andre Reed ranks No. 3 all-time. |
| Flag -- Has any team tumbled as hard as Kansas City? A three-game losing streak has dropped the Chiefs from the playoff picture and into the middle of the draft board. |
| New England plays its second Thanksgiving Day game (20-17 loss in 1984 against Dallas). Meanwhile, Detroit is 31-27-4 all-time on T-Day. || |
| New York Jets RB Curtis Martin needs 138 yards to become the third player in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in each of his first six seasons.|| |
| Washington RB Stephen Davis is tied for the league lead with 10 rushing TDs (Colts' Edgerrin James and Dolphins' Lamar Smith). |
| Oakland's Rich Gannon leads AFC QBs with 340 yards rushing and has directed an AFC-high 45 red-zone trips (26 TDs, 12 field goals). |
| Buffalo at Tampa Bay (1 p.m. EST) -- Bills are 7-4, while Buccaneers are 6-5. Both teams are holding playoff hopes, and this is a must win. Expect an old-fashioned slobber-knocker.
| New Orleans at St. Louis (1 p.m. EST) -- The Rams have scored 20-plus points in an NFL-record 27 consecutive games. The Saints have allowed 183 points, the fourth fewest in the NFC. |
| Kansas City at San Diego (4:15 p.m. EST) -- The Chargers' past five losses have been by 18 total points, and their four two-point losses match the 1984 Chiefs for most ever in a season. |
| Miami at Indianapolis (4:15 p.m. EST) -- These teams have combined for 136 points in the last two meetings. The Colts are fourth in the league in scoring (27.5 ppg.), while Miami is second in points allowed (13.3). |
| Green Bay at Carolina (9 p.m. EST Monday) -- The Panthers' defense has held seven of 11 opponents to 20 points or less. The Packers have scored 20 or more points seven times in 11 games. |
|If you're traveling this weekend and looking for a rest stop, keep this in mind: The second-busiest day for visitors to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio -- next to the Hall's annual induction day every summer -- is the day after Thanksgiving.
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