2nd-year 6' 5", 330-pound NT Ma'ake Kemoeatu had an impressive rookie season registering 32 tackles, plus 2 sacks. Made his 1st career sack on Peyton Manning and 2nd on Tommy Maddox in the season finale. Has tremendous burst coming off the ball. Has the tendency to leave his mid-section vulnerable when eyeing direction of the ball.
Ravens have the perfect blend of experience and youth on the outsides. DEs Michael McCrary and Adalius Thomas were major participants in Baltimore's '00 record-setting defense and Super Bowl XXXV win. Backup Riddick Parker earned a Super Bowl ring the following year with the New England Patriots. It is this very success that can only make young-guns Anthony Weaver and Marques Douglas better players- quicker.
McCrary must have had a change of heart from when I last spoke with him in early January. He indicated to me at that time, that he would be returning to Baltimore for the 2003 season, not as a player, but rather as an assistant coach. However, as of 3/30, he is still on the Ravens active roster. Because of chronic knee problems, he missed the entire 2nd half of last season. Yet, what little time he was on the field, he still managed 16 tackles and 2 sacks. Both of those sacks came courtecy of Brian Griese in the Ravens 34-23 win over the Broncos (Monday Night Football, Week 3).
You'll remember before last season began, the Ravens considering moving Adalius Thomas from defensive end to outside linebacker. I asked him which he preferred playing the most. He answered, "Outside-linebacker!" But despite everyone's efforts, Thomas proved much more effective at his "natural" position at defensive end. He finished with 68 tackles (2nd most among Raven DLs), plus 2 solo sacks and two .5 sacks. The 3-year vet was also in on sacks on Carolina's Rodney Peete (.5 sack), Texan QB David Carr (1 sack) and Michael Vick (1.5 sack).
Well-traveled Riddick Parker filled in quite nicely for Marques Douglas in the final 11 games of the season, after Douglas went down. The 8-year veteran recording 29 tackles, including a 7-tackle performance in the season finale against Pittsburgh. He also had a .5 sack on Tommy Maddox in that game. Has a knack of making a hit, sack, or tackle in key situations. A tremendous asset, depth-wise, that allowed OLB Peter Boulware the freedom to prowl about.
Anthony Weaver wants what McCrary, Thomas and Parker have- a Super Bowl ring. Weaver had a terrific rookie season, starting in all 16 games, tallying 65 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 4 tipped balls. Registered 1st career sack on Broncos QB Brian Griese. Also took part in sacks on Vick (.5 sack), Jon Kitna (CIN, 1 sack) and Carr (1 sack). Did not make the kind of rookie mistakes you normally see from a first-year defensive lineman.
Again, Marques Douglas spent the final 11 games of last year on IR, after what looked like to be a banner season for the 3-year backup, registering a career-high 15 tackles in the first 5 games. He also recorded two .5 sacks- One on Rodney Peete and the other on Tim Couch. This is actually Douglas' second hitch with the Ravens, who originally signed him as a rookie free agent ('99) before spending an extensive amount of time on New Orleans' IR and practice squad.
Give it up to Billick, Nolan, and Ryan. To lose Sam Adams, Lional Dalton, Tony "Goose" Siragusa, and Rob Burnett in one fatal swoop and still limit their opponents to just 3.7 yards per rush (Tied 2nd best) is amazing. But before Raven fans get too excited, they need to take a good, hard look at the list of running backs they're expected to stop this year. Let's do that:
2002 1,000-yard Rushers on Baltimore's 2003 Schedule
Ricky Williams (MIA)- 1853 yards, 16 TDs (1st NFL rushing, tied-2nd rushing TDs))
LaDanian Tomlinson (SD)- 1683 yards, 14 TDs (2nd NFL rushing, 5th rushing TDs))
Priest Holmes (KC), 1615 yards, 21 TDs (3rd NFL rushing, 1st rushing TDs)
Clinton Portis (DEN)- 1508 yards, 15 TDs (4th NFL rushing, 4th rushing TDs)
Fred Taylor (JAX)- 1314 yards (9th NFL rushing)
*Corey Dillon (CIN)- 1311 yards (10th NFL rushing)
Shawn Alexander (SEA)- 1175 yards (5th NFC rushing, tied-2nd NFL rushing TDs)
Other Opposing Running Backs on Baltimore's 2003 Schedule
Marshall Faulk (STL)- Rushed for 1382 yards, 12 TDs in '01(Tied-2nd rushing TDs, 2nd NFL yards from scrimmage). Slowed down considerablly by injuries, but still managed to grind it out for 953 yards, 8 TDs.
*Jerome Bettis (PIT)- Also hampered with injuries. Punched in 9 rushing TDs on 666 yards. Gained nearly double that yardage-output in '01 (1072 yds.)
Garrison Hearst (SF)- Has 2178 rushing yards over the past two seasons.
Emmitt Smith (ARZ)- Has 1999 rushing yards over the past two seasons.
*William Green (CLE)- Gained 887 yards in his rookie season. 726 of those yards came over the final 7 games of the season (103.7 ave. per game). All 6 of his rushing TDs came in that 7-game stretch.
Jonathan Wells (HOU)- Played in all 16 games during his rookie season, including 11 starts. Rushed for 529 yards and 3 TDs, but averaged a lame 2.7 yards per carry, mostly because of lame blocking up front.
*- Play twice
Gridiron Goose can be contacted at GridironGoose@msn.com