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Ravens' re-signing of Ryan excites TE Wilcox

April 23, 2007|by CHRIS CARTER / Staff Correspondent

Of all the moves the Baltimore Ravens have made this offseason, tight end Daniel Wilcox strangely seemed to relish the one confirmed Saturday the most.

The Ravens signed defensive coordinator Rex Ryan to a two-year contract.

And while Wilcox is an offensive and special-teams player, he could still appreciate the move to bring back the brains of the NFL's top-ranked defense in 2006.

"More than anything, Rex is just a good guy to play for," said Wilcox, who was at the Hagerstown Elks Lodge on Saturday night for the 44th annual "Extra Effort" Awards Banquet, presented by Ravens Roost No. 7.

"Sometimes I can't wait to get off the field, just to see the defense and what Rex is going to call," Wilcox joked. "He creates a lot of mismatches and puts in plays specifically for his guys, to their strengths. And as a player, you love that stuff."

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Wilcox made time between dinner and the awards ceremonies at the "Extra Effort" banquet to praise Ryan and address the state of the Ravens' offense. Among its offseason moves, Baltimore promoted quarterbacks coach Rick Neuheisel to offensive coordinator and traded for former Buffalo Bills running back Willis McGahee.

"If there's one thing I know about Coach Neuheisel, it's that he's very aggressive," Wilcox said. "He always wants to attack, attack, attack. But in the NFL, that can sometimes put you at a disadvantage. So as offensive coordinator, he's going to have to find a way to make it work. But he'll definitely open things up."

That would be refreshing for many fans, who have watched as the Ravens relied on defense to make up for a flawed offense in recent years. Baltimore made strides toward correcting its offensive inconsistencies last season, but they appeared again in a bitter home playoff loss to Indianapolis in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs.

"Anytime you lose, it's disappointing," Wilcox said. "But to lose at home against Indianapolis, of all teams, it hurts us and it hurts the fans.

"To be 13-and-3 and get a first-round bye, then turn around and lose our first playoff game," he paused. "We have to do better."

The Ravens hope McGahee can help the process when he brings his 3,365 career rushing yards to M&T Bank Stadium this fall. McGahee will replace Jamal Lewis now with rival Cleveland as starting running back and bring a new dimension to the Ravens' offense.

"(McGahee) can do a lot out of the backfield and I think he will make a big impact," Wilcox said. "He's a lot different than Jamal because he brings a lot of shiftiness. Between those two, they might be even if they were running 20 yards. But after 30 or 40 yards, Willis has the moves to break away.

"And as part of the offensive line, it will be my job to help get him past the defensive linemen and linebackers so he can do his thing."

Wilcox's "thing" has usually meant playing a backup or dual role in the offense, while contributing on special teams. Undrafted out of Appalachian State in 2001, Wilcox played for the New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers before joining Baltimore in 2004. He has since caught 65 passes for 539 yards with five touchdowns three in 2006 and his 20 special-teams tackles last year was second on the team.

While those statistics will never make Wilcox the most familiar player in Baltimore he's not even the most familiar tight end, with two-time Pro-Bowl selection Todd Heap holding that honor he maintains a winning mentality. And if that becomes familiar throughout the Ravens' locker room, then Baltimore fans might have something familiar to look forward to in 2007.

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