Streaky Plummer's mobility a concern

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- A growing, impatient faction of the Denver Broncos' faithful viewed the presence of Jake Plummer under center as a major problem, not an asset, until he redeemed himself two weeks ago. The clamor for Denver to insert rookie first-round pick Jay Cutler has quieted down, mostly because of how Plummer gamely handled the New England Patriots.

Following a pair of touchdown passes to wide receiver Javon Walker and 15 of 30 accuracy for 256 yards and no interceptions in a 17-7 victory over New England, it looks like the elusive, unpredictable Plummer is on another torrid streak after an icy start.
Now, the undefeated Baltimore Ravens (4-0) are concentrating on Plummer's scrambling ability as they take on Denver (2-1) on Monday night at Invesco Field.
Because of Plummer's mobility and penchant for bootlegs and waggles, the Ravens are extra cognizant of how they approach their first encounter this season against a veteran quarterback. If Plummer has an eternity to locate receivers or escapes pressure to throw on the move, it only makes the defensive backs' job more challenging.
"I hate these scramblers, personally," Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister grumped. "Why doesn't he just throw the ball? Three seconds, get it over with.
"It makes my job a lot harder because now the receiver can run two or three different routes. For any corner, it's a nightmare."
The question with Plummer hardly ever changes: Which Plummer will show up for kickoff?
Will it be the erratic guy who had no touchdowns, four interceptions and a 38.6 passer rating after two games? Or the one who melted down in the AFC title game as two fumbles and two interceptions led to 24 points for the Pittsburgh Steelers?
"You never know," Denver coach Mike Shanahan said. "Those games are going to happen, and it's part of being a quarterback in the NFL. He probably went against one of the better defenses in New England and he played extremely well."
Or will it be the composed 10-year pro who posted a respectable 18 touchdowns and seven interceptions last year, managing the game in a 12-10 win over Baltimore last December with 236 yards, one touchdown and no turnovers?
The legacy of Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway always seems to haunt those who have followed in his footsteps.
"People don't realize that John had it tougher than any of those other guys that have been playing behind him," Shanahan said. "John was second-guessed more than anybody."
Unlike the first four neophyte quarterbacks the Ravens have exploited – Tampa Bay's Chris Simms, Oakland's Andrew Walter, Cleveland's Charlie Frye and San Diego's Philip Rivers -- Plummer is experienced. Entering his 129th career start, he has won 73.9 percent of his starts since arriving in Denver in 2003 after starting his career with the Arizona Cardinals following a starring role at Arizona State.
"You've got to recognize that whatever we're doing, he has seen it before in one form or fashion," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "You aren't going to trick Jake in that regard. You can still make it tough for him obviously, but you better be aware that he's a veteran quarterback that has seen a lot of things."
Plummer sounds even more concerned about his impending matchup with a second-ranked defense that has generated 16 sacks and eight interceptions.
Denver relies heavily on a fourth-ranked running game that's averaging 150 yards per contest, the Ravens' top-ranked run defense is only giving up 63.3 rushing yards per game. Which means that Plummer is going to need to connect with Walker and Rod Smith to advance the football regularly.
"They are coming in at a very high level," Plummer said. "This year, it's probably better than the defense they had when they did win the Super Bowl as far as making plays, causing turnovers and holding offenses to very little point production. We are going to have to be on top of our game."
Ultimately, the Ravens' game plan centers heavily on Plummer. Even though he has rushed for only seven yards this season, he's still dangerous and entered this year with 1,741 career rushing yards and 16 touchdowns.
"That is Denver's offense," middle linebacker Ray Lewis said. "It's based on him, running, running, running, then making a big play down the field. If you can keep Jake in that box, you can pretty much bottle up Denver's offense. If you don't, it's going to be a long day."
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.

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