- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 3, 2002

OWINGS MILLS, Md. Just two days removed from his team's best offensive showing of the season, Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick lambasted his receiving corps.

Billick singled out third-year receiver Travis Taylor for not living up to his status as a first-round draft pick. Taylor, the 10th selection out of Florida in the 2000 NFL Draft, has five receptions for 79 yards through three games.

"My veteran, the guy we lean on, is very young, came out as a junior, Travis Taylor, who should be coming into his own," Billick said. "That's our veteran go-to, throw-it-on-his-shoulders guy. That's a lot for a young guy, but having said that, that's his job, that's what he's getting paid for, that's what he held out for in that first contract year. Now, I'm ready for the payback."

Billick has a legitimate gripe. The Ravens' top two receivers are tight end Todd Heap (13 receptions, 124 yards, two touchdowns) and running back Jamal Lewis (13 receptions, 92 yards).

Brandon Stokley, who has 12 catches for 175 yards, is the best of the Ravens' wide receivers. After Stokley there is a huge dropoff Taylor and rookie Ron Johnson (two catches for 22 yards and a touchdown).

In 1999, Billick's first season, he said his receiving corps was recycled from a trash heap. He may have the same problem with this group.

"The receivers need to show up," Billick said of Sunday's game at Cleveland (2-2). "The receivers need to take accountability and say, 'It's about time we impacted a game.'"

Heap has been one of the few bright spots for the Ravens (1-2). Last season, Heap learned from tight end Shannon Sharpe and played sparingly.

During the offseason, Sharpe returned to Denver as a free agent and Heap's opportunity arrived.

With his mentor on the opposite sideline, Heap produced a breakout game on Monday when he caught five passes for a career-high 84 yards and two touchdowns. The 6-foot-5, 252-pound Heap made two acrobatic catches one for 33 yards and the other for a 23-yard touchdown, both in double coverage.

"For me, if there's anybody I ever wanted to play behind, it would be Shannon Sharpe," Heap said. "I definitely learned a lot from him. It was good for me to get in there and get a feel for it and watch how he did things and now it's my turn to step up. [Sharpe] said he was proud and said good luck the rest of the season. I'm always going to be rooting for him and he'll always be rooting for me."

The Ravens' receivers would like to see Heap do well, which would force single coverage on the outside. With Heap becoming a big-play component of the Ravens' offense, defenses will be forced to pay extra attention to him over the middle.

"With teams playing so much 'Cover2' nowadays, those safeties have to respect the middle of the field a little bit more and it helps to open up those throws on the outside," Stokley said.

Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' senior vice president of football operations, calls Heap the "future of this team." Newsome knows a little about the subject he's a Hall of Fame tight end.

Notes After reviewing tapes of Chris McAlister's missed field goal return on Monday, the league's record keepers determined it was 107 yards still an NFL record for the longest return of any kind. For his effort, McAlister was named AFC special teams player of the week. Middle linebacker Ray Lewis was named defensive player of the week for his interception and 20 tackles against the Broncos.

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