Raiders notebook: Double Lewis trouble

Jamal and Ray Lewis could make for a long day for the Raiders.

In math speak, the Baltimore Ravens could be referred to as Lewis to the second power – as in Jamal and Ray.

Don't bet on the Oakland Raiders putrid run defense to improve the last three games of the season.

The Raiders (3-10) enter Sunday's home game against the Baltimore Ravens as the NFL's 31st ranked run defense. On tap for the last three games of the season – Baltimore's Jamal Lewis, Green Bay's Ahman Green and San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson. Those three players have amassed a total of 4,345 yards.

In a word – ouch.

That task is akin to a pitcher having to face say Barry Bonds, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron in succession. At least pitchers can intentionally walk batters. There is no such free pass, however, in a football team defending the run.

"They are different in the way they commit themselves to the run and they stick to it," Oakland rookie defensive end Tyler Brayton said. "Jamal Lewis is an explosive runner when he hits the hole. … He's uncanny the way he hits the holes."

The first task at hand is Lewis, who spearheads the Ravens running attack that ranks No. 2 in the NFL. Lewis rushed for an NFL record 295 yards earlier this season against the Cleveland Browns.

"We'll be facing some of the best backs in the league," Raiders rookie defensive end Akbar Gbaja-Biamila said. "Those are going to be some good challenges. I think we're ready for it. … He's elusive. He'll hit the edge and go. He'll get through the middle and shake his way loose."

Another dose of Lewis

Jamal isn't the only Lewis on Baltimore that can give opponents a reason to call in sick.

Then, there's inside linebacker Ray Lewis, who many peers believe is the most dominant player in the NFL today. Lewis leads the NFL in tackles but that only begins to tell the story of his greatness.

Because of his big-play capability and leadership, Lewis falls into the category of being a player who elevates the level at which his team performs. And guess what? Lewis' position coach is the great Mike Singletary, who like Lewis was the dominant middle linebacker of his generation and one of the best of all-time.

Lewis' impact on the game coupled with the fact that he is in eighth NFL season make it strongly warranted to put him in the same sentence as players such as Singletary, Lawrence Taylor, Dick Butkus and Ray Nitschke. Not so much in terms of longevity but with his impact on the game.

Lewis has been in the NFL for eight years, six as a Pro Bowler. Raiders safety Rod Woodson, who is on injured reserve, was a teammate of Lewis for four seasons in Baltimore – including a Super Bowl winning season of 2000.

"The first two years he was in the league, he was basically a tackling machine," Woodson said. "But he wasn't making those game-breaking plays that he's made the last three years, and that's what has elevated Ray over all the other defensive players."

One of those game-breaking plays came Baltimore thumped the San Francisco 49ers 44-6 two weeks ago. Lewis returned a Jeff Garcia interception 29-yards for a touchdown and tallied 18 tackles.

Lewis has either intercepted a pass or forced a fumble in six of his last seven games.

Vince D'Adamo can be reached at vdad7@yahoo.com


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