J. Lewis primed for hefty role against Texans

OWINGS MILLS -- It doesn't take a genius, philosopher or a football savant to decipher the Baltimore Ravens' primary offensive strategy against the Houston Texans. A steady diet of Jamal Lewis to the left, Jamal Lewis to the right and Jamal Lewis up the middle is the likely impending scenario for the Ravens (3-8) on Sunday against the Texans (1-10) at M&T Bank Stadium.

That's because of reasons beyond Lewis coming off his top rushing performance of the season with a season-high 113 yards on 23 carries in a 42-29 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

The beleaguered Texans have the worst rushing defense in the NFL, allowing 158.1 rushing yards per game. They surrendered a combined total of 525 rushing yards in losses to the Indianapolis Colts and Seattle Seahawks.

"We have to take advantage of their weaknesses," Lewis said. "That's the game of football: you have to take advantage of the other teams' weaknesses. Hey, they're an NFL team. They do some good things, but we have to go out and play our game."

By necessity, Lewis will again be thrust into a featured role against the Texans. Chester Taylor is listed as questionable with a foot injury, and the Ravens signed journeyman Jamel White on Wednesday for depth and special-teams duties.

So, Lewis, who will be an unrestricted free agent after this season when his six-year, $35.3 million contract expires, will probably get another chance to prove his point that he can be highly productive if given enough carries.

"I think they were kind of forced into the situation to let me do what I do best and run the football and get everything cranked up," Lewis said, referring to the Cincinnati game. "They didn't have any other tailbacks. Take what you want to take from that. Who are you going to give the ball to?

"I earned my paycheck this week. It felt like it used to."

The Texans allowed their seventh100-yard rushing game last week as Steven Jackson gained 110 yards on 25 carries in the St. Louis Rams' 33-27 overtime win. They squandered a 24-3 halftime partly because they couldn't contain Jackson or rookie quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, a seventh-round pick from Harvard.

"It leaves a sick feeling in your stomach to lose a game like that," center Steve McKinney said. "I felt like I wanted to throw up."
Lewis could induce a similar bout of nausea by trampling a defense that allows 4.8 yards per rush and has given up 16 rushing touchdowns.

Whether it's Buffalo's Willis McGahee (117 yards), Pittsburgh's Willie Parker (111 yards), Seattle's Shaun Alexander (141 yards), Indianapolis' Edgerrin James (139 and 122 yards), Kansas City's Larry Johnson (211 yards) or Jackson, it's been a brutal showing by the Texans' front seven.

"Jamal Lewis is still Jamal Lewis," Texans coach Dom Capers said. "If you don't stop the run, then they are going to run it down your throat all day. If Jamal Lewis starts pounding that ball down in there and you don't do a good job of playing the blocks and tackling, then it is going to be a long day."

While the Texans feature competent defensive linemen in Gary Walker and Seth Payne, they lack proven talent at linebacker with starters Morlon Greenwood, Shantee Orr, Dashon Polk and Antwan Peek.

"Of course, teams are going to run the ball on us," Peek said. "If an offensive coordinator doesn't, he should be fired."

In the midst of his most unproductive season ever with 621 yards and two touchdowns to rank 22nd in the NFL in rushing, Lewis was smiling Wednesday in the locker room.

His surgically repaired right ankle isn't bothering him much anymore, and he's certain that he's going to be heavily involved in the game plan. With only 195 carries, Lewis is feeling fresher than usual in the 12th game of the season.

"Jamal Lewis is always beat up, trust me," Lewis said. "The reason is because you get 25 to 30 carries a game and a lot of backs get beaten up. Fortunately or unfortunately, I haven't been put in that position. I'm pretty much as healthy as I've been at this time of the year. I think that's a plus."

In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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