Angry Moss Remains A Dangerous Target

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Once again, Randy Moss is angry at the world: Pouting, fuming and frowning as only he can. The combustible Oakland Raiders All-Pro wide receiver has been taking out his frustrations by spewing out mutinous words on any microphone within his orbit. He drew a taunting penalty for throwing a football after a catch Monday night at a player on the San Diego Chargers' bench.

It's not a coincidence that his behavior coincided with being limited to four meaningless receptions in the Raiders' embarrassing 27-0 loss.

Even days before kickoff, Moss was on the verge of losing his composure because of what he called a crazy atmosphere surrounding the organization. He noted that players were "walking around on eggshells around here," adding that he's not "thrilled with the way things are going on around here," and dropped this bombshell: "The Raiders are not my team, I'm only playing here."

Meanwhile, the Baltimore Ravens are hoping that Moss isn't primed for a much more productive type of explosion Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, one that could leave a reverberating impact on their secondary.

The Ravens are riding one of their most complete triumphs in years, coming off a 27-0 victory over Tampa Bay where the secondary bottled up the Buccaneers' best receiver, Joey Galloway, for zero catches.

They accomplished that feat with cornerback Samari Rolle handling the primary responsibility against Galloway with help over the top from safety Ed Reed. Now, they have designs on preventing Moss from performing one of his over-the-top celebrations in the end zone.

Defending Moss is traditionally a high-wire act akin to a high-profile circus. "Anytime you have Randy Moss on the other side of the ball, you're going to have problems," middle linebacker Ray Lewis said. "You better be aware of where he is."

Since entering the league in 1998, Moss hasn't done much damage against the Ravens. He has eight career receptions for 98 yards and one touchdown. Moss was usually open deep, though, against the Chargers. There just wasn't nearly adequate enough pass protection for quarterback Aaron Brooks to have the time to locate him downfield.

Oakland surrendered nine sacks and Moss wound up with 47 yards. It was a different situation altogether as Brooks and Moss connected on 63-yard and 25-yard touchdown to conclude the preseason. "Randy is the best ever receiver next to Jerry Rice, so it's a challenge for our whole defense," Rolle said. "When you cover him, you know the ball is coming. I would say that's probably the only good thing about it."

Although Rolle is the Ravens' best pure cover specialist, it's unclear if he'll be isolated against Moss. Cornerback Chris McAlister usually draws that challenging assignment because of his imposing size at 6-foot-1, 207 pounds to match up against the 6-4, 210-pound Moss.

Naturally, Rolle declined to elaborate on the planned strategy for Moss and whether they'll approach him the same way they did Galloway, another distinguished deep threat. "We'll see Sunday," Rolle said. "It's not like we just went up against Galloway and put two people on him the whole game."

Likewise, McAlister didn't offer much in the way of specifics on how he'll defend Moss other than emphasizing a fundamental approach. In nine seasons, Moss has caught 638 career passes for 10,194 yards and 98 touchdowns. "He's athletic, he makes all the catches, he has the speed and he has the size," McAlister said. "I've seen him make so many plays down the field by jumping over people. Basically, you have to stick to doing what you do best and play your technique and play your coverage. You can't just be chasing him around."

Raiders coach Art Shell expects a similar approach, and predicted that it would be effective. "Yes, I do," he said. "Randy Moss is a guy that has to be reckoned with and teams are always trying to do something to take him away. We've got make sure we get other people involved, but, at the same time, still try to create situations where we can get the ball in Randy's hands." Shell didn't state the obvious: He'll hear about it from Moss if he doesn't get the ball enough for his liking.

When Ravens coach Brian Billick was the Minnesota Vikings' offensive coordinator in 1998, Moss was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. He caught 69 passes for 1,313 yards and 17 touchdown passes. "You try to sneak that 12th guy onto the field and hope the officials don't notice," Billick said. "Sometimes, that seems like the only way to stop him. He is a dynamic talent that impacts every defensive game plan that you are going to be in." Along the way, Moss has probably drawn as many admirers as he has detractors who don't care for his history of off-field problems, tendency to loaf and pout if he's not the getting the ball and penchant for taunting opponents and their fans.

Even though he's rarely a happy camper for long, Moss remains a legitimate game-changing threat. "I've never played against a receiver as fast as Randy Moss," said defensive end Trevor Pryce, a former Denver Bronco who competed against Moss for years in the AFC West. "Even last year with some of the stuff he did, he's wide open all by himself. They just couldn't get him the ball. So, they are a very dangerous football team."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.

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