McGahee has Jets' number

OWINGS MILLS -- Willis McGahee revealed a little smile before mastering the art of understatement. The topic of conversation was the Baltimore Ravens running back's sterling track record against the New York Jets' defense, and it took some coaxing for him to barely acknowledge how seldom he's been stopped against this AFC East team heading into Sunday's home opener at M&T Bank Stadium.

Over the past five games against the Jets, McGahee has averaged 132.6 yards and 5.1 yards per carry with three touchdowns over that period. Only once was he held under the century mark.

"You know, I guess I've just had good experiences with them," McGahee said. "They're going to game plan just like we're going to game plan. So, it's another game for us. I'm looking forward to it on Sunday, and we've just got to go out there and play."

Although McGahee finished with a career-low 990 yards last season, he thrived against the Jets.

He rushed for 150 yards on 26 carries in a 28-20 loss last September, following that performance up with 125 yards on 16 carries in a 31-13 win last December. During the previous season, he rushed for 143 and 113 yards against New York .

"He killed us a bunch of times," said Jets middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma, McGahee's friend and former University of Miami teammate. "Strong guy, a fast guy. He's very explosive. So, it's all those things you want in a back and you hate to see in a back. We have to get after him."

For McGahee, it's more than a case of having the Jets' number. He's also extremely fresh after a light workload of just 19 carries for 77 yards in the Ravens' 27-20 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Ravens coach Brian Billick has drawn widespread criticism locally and nationally this week for not giving the Ravens' $40 million featured runner the football more often in his regular-season debut, but McGahee hasn't complained.

"I'm good," McGahee said. "It's not like I took a beating, so I can't complain about that. If my number is called, I'm going to go out and do what I've got to do. I can't get into all that situation stuff. I just need to worry about what I have to do and how I can help the team win."

Since starting quarterback Steve McNair is expected to be a game-time decision with a groin pull along with the Jets' susceptibility against the run when McGahee in the backfield, it's not exactly a stretch to believe he'll be heavily involved against his old foils this weekend.

"Willis is a good back, that's why we coveted him," Billick said in a conference call with Jets beat reporters. "I don't know how to quantify the success Willis has had against the Jets.

"I haven't noticed it in that kind of detail, but obviously he's very familiar with them and that is a plus. I thought Willis ran very well the other night."

McGahee, who was acquired in a trade from the Buffalo Bills this offseason, has been eagerly anticipating his regular-season debut in Baltimore and envisioning how he'll run out of the tunnel. He even promised during training camp to possibly unveil some sort of dance during introductions.

"No doubt about it, I'm very anxious," McGahee said. "It's going to be a blessing to be in the stadium for the Ravens. That's a sight to see." Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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