- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 16, 2003

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens only can hope they have the Wright stuff today against the Miami Dolphins.

Veteran quarterback Anthony Wright, who hasn’t taken a regular-season NFL snap in more than two seasons, makes his Ravens debut against the Dolphins at Miami’s Pro Player Stadium.

Unfortunately for Wright, weather curtailed his practice as he prepared for one of the NFL’s better defenses. Heavy winds Thursday and Friday at the Ravens’ practice facility hindered Wright’s ability to throw the ball effectively and get his timing down with his receivers.

“It’s been good and bad,” Ravens coach Brian Billick said of practicing in strong wind gusts. “It’s bad because it’s hard running, throwing and punting the ball — the timing, it’s tough. It’s good because it makes the guys focus in a way they have not had to before.”

Wright, 27, was elevated from third string to starter earlier in the week when Billick and his staff chose Wright over fourth-year backup Chris Redman.

The Ravens had the 25th-rated offense with starter Kyle Boller in his first year in the NFL. But he tore his left quadriceps in the first half of the Ravens’ 33-22 loss last Sunday at the St. Louis Rams.

The Ravens offense has relied on the running of Jamal Lewis, the NFL’s leading rusher with 1,156 yards and seven touchdowns on 214 attempts. However, rushing yards are hard to come by against the Dolphins’ front seven.

Miami (5-4) has the NFL’s second-best run defense and allows 81.4 rushing yards a game. Plus, the Dolphins defense knows it can shut down Lewis. Last season it held Lewis to 47 yards on 17 carries in an easy 26-7 win. To make matters worse, the Dolphins don’t let teams in the end zone. Miami is second in the league in points allowed with 15.6.

The Dolphins defense will be bolstered further by the return of middle linebacker Zach Thomas (groin) and cornerback Patrick Surtain (ankle), who leads the AFC with six interceptions. Both sat out last week’s 31-7 loss at Tennessee.

Facing a defense that has nine former Pro Bowl players is daunting enough, but with a change at quarterback — and a rusty one at that — it could be a long day for the Ravens offense.

“We’ll see. We’ll see how tough it is,” said Ravens tight end Todd Heap, who leads the Ravens with 35 receptions for 447 yards and two touchdowns. “This is going to be a tough week for us, especially in preparation with Anthony, making sure we’re all on the same page. There’s a lot of things you need to go over, especially for him being in there for the first time.”

The Ravens hope Wright can use his athleticism to move the chains. He is a scrambler and has a strong enough arm. Wright may be forced to use his ability to escape just to get outside the Dolphins pass rush.

Miami’s defensive ends — Jason Taylor and Adewale Ogunleye — are as good as any pair in the league. Ogunleye, in his fourth year out of Indiana, is having a Pro Bowl-type of season with nine sacks, good for second best in the AFC. Taylor led the NFL in sacks last season with 18, but this season he is drawing more attention and has recorded just 3.

Does the fact that Wright is starting his first game since 2001 against a formidable defense put any additional pressure on Lewis to carry the Ravens offense?

“I have to do my job,” Lewis said. “I think my pressure is the same as it was when we had a rookie stepping in there. I don’t see it as too much pressure. You’ve got a guy [Wright] who’s been in the league for a while, knows his stuff and is pretty much experienced. I think it’ll be just a matter of time.”

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