Jets bring Ravens down to Earth

Former Ravens QB Vinny Testaverde and the Jets returned to Ravens Stadium Thursday, fresh off of a thorough spanking of the Steelers. The Ravens prepared to defend their home turf, with spirits high following a defensive showcase against the Lions. Unfortunately for the Ravens, the Jets proved to be too much to handle.

Amidst the hoopla surrounding Jamal Lewis' return to the starting lineup, the strength of the Jets was overlooked.  From the first series, in which the Jets methodically went through the air to post an easy touchdown, the strength of the men in green was demonstrated.  Following a popular trend, Testaverde picked on backup CB Alvin Porter, starting the second game in a row for injured Gary Baxter.  Porter had no chance in covering WR Laveraneus Coles, who consistently made him look silly with his sharp route running, and blinding speed.  This would be an omen throughout the secondary for the entire game, with QB Tory Woodbury being the only field general not to have a field day in the Ravens defensive backfield.  Aside from a single series in which the Jets avoided interceptions in the end zone two times, the secondary produced a very poor performance as a whole, with the exception of Will Demps, who came down with a tough interception for the second game in a row.

The backups on the defensive line turned out fairly lackluster performances as well, being literally trampled by former Maryland RB Lamont Jordan, with the sole notable being Marques Douglas, who blew up more then one play in the backfield.  The linebackers faired a bit better, with Ed Hartwell and Shannon Taylor turning in admirable performances, but the performance of Adalius Thomas was less then flattering.  Kelly Gregg turned in another serviceable night, along with Ray Lewis, who crushed Anthony Becht in the end zone, breaking up a sure touchdown.  Ed Reed had his first action on defense in the second half, but did not particularly stand out.

All of the defensive successes and failures were overshadowed, however, by the return of Jamal Lewis.  He was on the field for only seven plays, but made a very positive impression for Ravens fans and fantasy football addicts alike.  Running strong, eluding tacklers, pumping his feet, and attracting his trademark multiple opponents to bring him down.  He ran just as any Ravens fan remembered him during the Super Bowl run in 2000.  He finished with 4 carries for 24 yards, but will sit out of next week's game in Philadelphia, not wanting to risk his surgically repaired knee on the harsh turf of the Vet.

There were plenty of other positives to take out of Thursday's game, but unfortunately, save for Edwin Mulitalo's improved play, none of them came from the offensive line.  Aside from the starting unit, every dropback attempted by a Ravens quarterback was disrupted by a Jet defender seemingly walking through the porous line.  The debut of backup RB Chester Taylor out of Toledo was another story entirely.  Running strong, Taylor showed that he will provide the second component of a promising backfield duo.

After an opener that demonstrated his poise, but not his execution, Chris Redman was eager to get back onto the field and correct his mistakes.  He did just that on Thursday, showing much improvement in a week's time, completing passes in the pocket and on the run.  Chris also showed his ability to take a hit, and scramble downfield for a first down.  Brandon Stokely and Todd Heap showed up quite noticeably with Redman behind center, both coming up with big plays.  Redman was very close to a touchdown pass, with Javin Hunter not fully extending to pull down the ball.  Jeff Blake's performance was marred by terrible line play, but he managed to drive the Ravens down the field late, culminating the drive with a spectacular pitch and catch in the corner of the endzone to Ron Johnson, whose tiptoe catch highlighted his above-average showing late in the game.

Special teams play in Thursday's game was a mixed bag.  Kick coverage was awful, allowing Chad Morton to return a kickoff 69 yards, and generally not providing coverage that would be considered up to snuff.  Javin Hunter provided one of the few bright spots, showing impressive breakway speed in a 99 yard kickoff return for a touchdown.  Dave Zastudil improved from last week, booming the few amount of kicks he had.

Thursday's game proved to have mixed results, and the Ravens will know further where they stand when they face off against Donovan McNabb and the Eagles in Philadelphia on Friday.

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