Snapshot: Browns vs. Ravens

Starting at 1PM today, Browns fans will get to learn a lot more about what the 2004 season will hold. The Browns begin the season against a tough (and noxious) opponent: the Baltimore Ratbirds. Will the 2004 season be a repeat of last year, as national pundits predict? Or will it be a return to 2002 playoff form, as fans and the team hope? Tune in at 1PM...

Cleveland Browns Vs Baltimore Ravens


KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET

GAMEDATE: 9/12/04

SURFACE: Grass

TV: CBS, Kevin Harlan, Randy Cross

SERIES: 11th meeting. The Ravens lead 7-3 after winning both games last year by a combined 68-13 last year.

*2003 RANKINGS:
Ravens: offense 21st (1st rush, 32nd pass); defense 3rd (6th rush, 4th pass).
Browns: offense 26th (20th rush, 25th pass); defense 15th (23rd rush, 7th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Browns' defensive line must keep Ravens RB Jamal Lewis from getting a head of steam into the secondary. The Browns have struggled in recent years against cutback runners and their secondary doesn't tackle particularly well. The Ravens do have concerns about their running game with C Mike Flynn (clavicle) out and LT Jonathan Ogden (knee) likely a game-time decision. The Browns will stuff the box and play man on the Ravens' receivers, so QB Kyle Boller must show improved accuracy. RB Lee Suggs (shoulder string) is unlikely to play, but William Green is a very capable backup and the key for the Browns is QB Jeff Garcia being more in sync with his receivers than he was in the preseason. CB Deion Sanders makes his regular-season return and will play in the nickel package in a secondary that heavily out-mans the Browns' receiving corps.

FAST FACTS:
Ravens: Lewis rushed for 500 yards in two games against the Browns last season, the most ever in a season against one team. ... Swept the season series last year by a combined score of 68-13. ... Ran the ball on 82 of 126 plays (65 percent) in the two meetings last season.
Browns: QB Jeff Garcia threw four interceptions and had an 18.8 passer rating against the Ravens as a 49er last season.

PREDICTED SCORE: Ravens 17, Browns 13

PERSONNEL NEWS

Ravens:

  • LT Jonathan Ogden was very limited in practice because of a sprained left knee and remains 50-50 whether he will play. He has shown flexibility in that leg but hasn't done much in practice.
  • LB Adalius Thomas worked most of practice despite a knee injury. He "guaranteed" he would play although the injury might limit his presence on special teams.
  • NT Kelly Gregg participated in most drills although his left leg was heavily wrapped. He continues to progress each day and should be able to start.
  • OL Damion Cook likely will be the top backup for every offensive line position Sunday. The third-year veteran has worked at center, guard and tackle this preseason.
  • WR Randy Hymes will be the third receiver this Sunday after showing he has fully recovered from last year's season-ending knee injury. He isn't the most polished route runner but he has the best leaping ability on the team.

Browns:

  • FB Terrelle Smith's father is gravely ill in a Los Angeles hospital. Smith said Otis Smith is "day to day." Terrelle Smith plans on playing against the Ravens Sunday even if his father passes away over the weekend.
  • OLB Chaun Thompson expects to be on the sideline at the start of Sunday's game. He will play with a soft cast on his left wrist. It was broken Aug. 1 in practice. He did not play until the final preseason game.
  • TE Kellen Winslow convinced Aaron Shea to give up the 80 Shea has worn since 2000. Winslow began training camp wearing 11. He wore 81 at the University of Miami but wanted 80 because his father wore 80 with the San Diego Chargers. Shea said he got a watch, a suit and some dinners in the deal. Shea now wears 83.
  • RB Dee Brown will return kicks. He was picked up as a street free agent early in training camp when James Jackson tore a hamstring. If Ben Taylor does start ahead of Thompson, it means the only change in the starting defensive lineup from last year is Warrick Holdman at OLB instead of Kevin Bentley. The Browns gave up an NFL record 295 yards to Jamal Lewis in the second week of the 2003 season.

INSIDE THE CAMPS

Ravens:

There's a growing concern about the Ravens' offensive line.

If left tackle Jonathan Ogden (sprained knee) can't play -- which seems more likely each day -- the Ravens would be left with just three regular starters on their line and only one healthy backup. The line was already depleted with center Mike Flynn (broken clavicle) out for another month.

With Flynn and Ogden hurting, two of their backups -- center Casey Rabach and tackle Ethan Brooks -- are working with the starters, leaving Damion Cook as the top reserve for every position (center, guard and tackle). If team officials decide Ogden can't go, the Ravens likely would promote someone off the practice squad (perhaps Tony Pashos).

"We can't go into a game with just six (healthy linemen)," offensive line coach Jim Colletto said. "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it."

Ogden, who sprained his knee in last week's preseason finale, has trained off to the side. He has shown improvement, jogging on the sideline and working on his drop in pass protection.

When asked if Ogden would play Sunday, coach Brian Billick said, "Tune in Sunday."

Ogden and Flynn started all 16 games last season when Jamal Lewis rushed for 2,066 yards, including two 200-yard games against the Browns. With Rabach and Brooks in there, the Ravens lose that same physical presence, especially in the running game.

Left guard Edwin Mulitalo admitted not having either of them beside him on the line has been strange, saying, "It's kind of like being the lone ranger out there."

Browns:

Browns right guard Kelvin Garmon says the best way to beat Baltimore's defense in the season opener Sunday is to attack it head on instead of trying to run away from Ray Lewis and the rest of the Ravens.

"Ray is a good guy," Garmon said of Lewis. "He runs down plays. I don't think he takes on blocks as well as some linebackers. Our thing is going to be to keep him from running down plays on the back side."

The Browns tried running away from Lewis last year and it did not work.

The Browns lost 33-13 and 35-0. They rushed for 60 yards in the first game and 78 in the second.

"The way we zone up, I'll be on (Lewis) a lot," Garmon said. "I'm sure he'll have a lot to say. Linemen don't say too much. We'll just go out and play. We'll try to use the run to set up the pass.

"We're going to try to run at them instead of hitting the edge. Running at them means they can't run down the ball. They're extremely fast."

The Browns have more confidence in their run offense than ever before.

The original plan was to use Lee Suggs and William Green as a one-two punch. Suggs is listed as doubtful with a neck injury. He did not practice Monday, Wednesday or Thursday.

"It will be real disappointing to miss out because we've worked so hard for this one game," said Suggs. "On the other hand, we have 15 more weeks. I have to listen to the doctors. They know what they're talking about. I have to be ready for whatever decision they make."

Coach Butch Davis said he expects Suggs to be ready for Dallas next week. He holds out a slim hope Suggs will play against the Ravens.


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