Ravens' receiving depth to be tested

OWINGS MILLS - If this was a fantasy football draft, most discerning owners would take a pass on the Baltimore Ravens' remaining wide receivers and tight ends.<br><br> Because of injuries to Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap and split end Travis Taylor, the defending AFC North champions' 30th-ranked passing game will be populated by fairly obscure names Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Since the Ravens obviously can't run Jamal Lewis every single play, it's the task of replacement tight ends Terry Jones and Daniel Wilcox to do all they can to make up for Heap's absence and vertical presence.

Veteran receivers Kevin Johnson and Randy Hymes along with rookies Devard Darling and Clarence Moore will need to stretch the field to relax the Bengals' aggressive, multiple-front approach.

"I just want to make something happen," said Moore, a sixth-round draft pick from Northern Arizona. "It's definitely a great chance for me to prove myself."

In last week's 30-13 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, the lanky 6-foot-6 rookie and former indoor triple jump champion acted as the third receiver but only played four snaps. All four plays were runs, though.

"A certain toughness," Ravens coach Brian Billick said regarding Moore. "He has stepped up to the challenge of being a low-round draft choice who no one ever expected anything out of and has fought his way into this position."

With Heap and Taylor likely out for the next few weeks with a sprained ankle and a groin pull, respectively, the other receivers have produced 19 catches for 171 yards and no scores. After Heap's 12 catches for 113 yards, the Ravens are led by Hymes' eight receptions for 63 yards and Johnson's seven catches for 75 yards.

"It's time for all of us to step up," said Darling, a swift third-round pick who has battled a quadriceps injury.
A former receiver at Appalachian State, Wilcox followed up a strong preseason with three catches for 22 yards. He's a candidate for some of the outside routes that Heap ran with Jones operating primarily over the middle.

"Pretty nifty," Billick said of Wilcox. "You replace a two-time Pro Bowler with a guy who was on the street last year, but he has played very well for us and he'll do some of those things."

After journeying from the New York Jets to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to NFL Europe's Rhein Fire, this is a prime opportunity for Wilcox.
"Todd Heap's shoes can't be filled, because I'm a totally different person," Wilcox said. "I just want to contribute as much as I can so we can win. I'm a role player, and this is another game for me to show what I can do."

The Ravens are averaging 126.5 passing yards per contest, 5.16 yards per passing attempt with no scores and a long pass of 24 yards to Heap. A 39-yard flea-flicker touchdown pass from Kyle Boller to Hymes last week was negated by Johnson's illegal motion penalty.

"I will try to get the ball out of my hands and make some plays," Boller said. "Todd is a heckuva player. It's not easy at all. We need someone to step up and make plays."

NOTES: The Ravens have ruled out center Mike Flynn (broken collarbone), although he's practicing on a limited basis, listing Heap and Taylor as doubtful on the injury report. Nose guard Kelly Gregg (knee), offensive tackle Ethan Brooks (knee) and nickel back Deion Sanders (hamstring) are questionable.

Gregg underwent arthroscopic knee surgery last week and doctors told him it will take between two and five weeks for him to return. "It's up in the air," Gregg said of Sunday's game. "It's feeling better and better. The mind tells you one thing, but the leg.."

… Sanders didn't do much at practice, but said his hamstring feels all right.

Marques Ogden knew it was coming: a bunch of nicknames centered on the practice-squad offensive tackle being the younger brother of Jonathan Ogden. "They called me, 'Little J.O and J.O. Jr.,'" Marques Ogden said. "It's great to be with my brother. He's always been a great resource for me."

… The Ravens have signed cornerback Calvin Carlyle for the final spot on their eight-man practice squad.

… Officials were invited to practice in an attempt to cut down on the team's 10 penalties against the Steelers. The Bengals ruled out center Rich Braham (knee), leaving virtually no depth along their interior line and 37-year-old Jerry Fontenot as the starter. Plus, former Ravens safety Kim Herring (foot) is out.

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.


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