Ravens dominate Redskins in scrimmage

BALTIMORE – Deion Sanders strutted as only he can after a pair of sacks, thriving in a rare blitzing capacity.

All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis thumped his chest after decking several running backs.

Starting quarterback Kyle Boller engineered a solid scoring drive and threw no interceptions. And backup Anthony Wright demonstrated a flair for the long pass unseen from him in two years as the Baltimore Ravens' passing game appears upgraded after ranking 31st in the NFL last year.

Yet, the biggest revelation of the Ravens' 16-6 scrimmage victory Saturday over the Washington Redskins may have been the play of journeyman wide receiver Patrick Johnson.

Diving and stretching his fingertips for a lofted Wright spiral, Johnson landed in the end zone with a 32-yard touchdown catch in front of 35,517 at M&T Bank Stadium.

Afterward, Ravens coach Brian Billick praised Johnson's improved maturity and consistency that's been marked by hands that haven't dropped a pass the entire training camp.

"It's a different Patrick Johnson," said Billick, who shares the same hometown of Redlands, Calif., with Baltimore's 1998 second-round pick. "Patrick and I go way back together. His focus, he seems to have eliminated those pesky drops he's had. He's always been an all-out player, but it's great to see Patrick have the camp he's had."

In his third tour of duty with the Ravens, Johnson caught a team-high four passes for 62 yards and scored Baltimore's only touchdown.

A former track star who once defeated gold medalist Carl Lewis, Johnson credited maturity for his increased production. He acknowledged that he still doesn't know if he'll make the team, though, as he's in a tight battle for a roster spot.

"I didn't start playing football until I was as senior in high school, so it's a bit of a learning process," Johnson said. "With all of the experiences I've gone through over the last three years since I've left Baltimore, I have matured. I try to keep everything on an even keel. I could still be cut next week."

Improved vision may be a factor. Johnson discovered he was far-sighted this off-season and now wears contact lens and began a regimen to strengthen his eyesight.

"From an arm's distance, I wasn't seeing anything," Johnson said. "I remember being in the Super Bowl four years ago when I barely missed a pass, I couldn't see the ball. I can see better now."

Meanwhile, Sanders' sack-master routine prompted Pro Bowl pass rusher Terrell Suggs to quip: "My job is definitely threatened. I've got to go back to the drawing board."

While Lewis led Baltimore with four tackles in one series against the Redskins' first offense, Sanders, 37, chased down a quarterback for the first time in over a decade.

Sanders' only career sack in an actual NFL game was in 1991 with the Atlanta Falcons, forcing Jeff Hostetler to fumble for a touchdown. Tackling the quarterback was not allowed, but Sanders thoroughly enjoyed harassing Ramsey.

"I've never been in a position where I blitzed on occasion, but now I can drop into coverage or blitz," Sanders said.

Along with Sanders' sack-master routine, Suggs and Lewis each registered a sack apiece.

The Ravens didn't unveil much of their aggressive 46 blitz package to limit the Redskins' first string to 37 yards in 15 plays, an average of 2.46 yards per snap.

"We didn't even give you all a taste," Suggs said. "That was just good football players making plays because we didn't even blitz that much."

While Boller led the Ravens on a scoring drive that ended in a 38-yard Matt Stover field goal as he connected on 4-of-6 passes for 44 yards, Wright was impressive, too, with the second unit. The veteran backup passed for 89 yards and a touchdown, also hitting Clarence Moore on a 44-yard flare.

"Both seemed very poised," Billick said. "Kyle seemed in command.

" It was Wright's first playing time since a playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans in January of 2004 after missing all of last season with a torn labrum.

For Wright, who led the Ravens to an AFC North title two seasons ago with a 5-2 mark after Boller injured his leg, it felt like a significant outing even if it was against an injury-depleted Redskins defense.

"I just want to get back in the groove," Wright said. "I wanted to come out and show my teammates I can still do the things that they remember me doing."

Wright did manage to miss two wide-open receivers at the goal line when he was indecisive on a throw and Redskins safety Sean Taylor batted the football away.

"My timing is off on some things, but those things will come with repetition," Wright said. "I still have it. I have the play-making ability to make it happen."

Aaron Wilson is the chief writer for RavensInsider.Com He is also the Ravens' reporter for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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