Ravens frustrated about passing numbers

OWINGS MILLS -- The Baltimore Ravens' frustration factor regarding its stagnant passing game has yet to strike its boiling point. Although there doesn't appear to be a bevy of candidates for anger management, there's no shortage of motivation to upgrade the vertical production.

Baltimore (3-2) is winning behind a top-ranked rushing game headlined by running back Jamal Lewis despite ranking last in the NFL in passing offense heading into Sunday's contest against the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Ravens average 97.2 passing yards per contest as rookie quarterback Kyle Boller is averaging 4.34 yards per throw.

"We're the worst team in passing and one of the best teams at running, so we definitely know what we have to get better at," said Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap, who was limited to one reception for two yards in Sunday's win over the Arizona Cardinals. "I was frustrated last week because we have the ability. We have the players. We have everything in place we need. "We know we can do it. We need to get more balanced. We have to put some points on the board at some time."

Whether or not the offensive profile will change dramatically remains to be seen, though. Lewis has rushed for a league-high 742 yards with five touchdowns. His all-purpose production represents 53.7 percent of the Ravens' offense. Baltimore has run the football 170 times for 998 yards and a 5.9 average compared to 126 passes for 543 yards and 8.4 yards per completion. Boller's last touchdown pass went to Heap against the San Diego Chargers on Sept. 21. Heap is the team's leading receiver with 17 receptions for 162 yards.

The Ravens only attempted 18 passes against Arizona with Boller completing nine for 75 yards and no interceptions.

"We didn't have any turnovers last week, so that's improvement," receiver Travis Taylor said. "Kyle is getting better with his protections and hot routes. We have to help him out."

Last season, Taylor posted career-high totals of 68 receptions for 869 yards and six touchdowns. His production through five games is 13 catches for 107 yards and one touchdown. That's similar to his totals from last season at this point. When asked specifically about the former first-round draft pick increasing his role, Ravens coach Brian Billick said it's not entirely under Taylor's control.

"Some of it's not up to Travis," Billick said. "Some of it has to do with what we're doing. There might be some frustration on his part, but he has to fight through that. I don't think we need to overreact, but he needs to show up and impact the game for us."

However, Taylor dropped a couple of passes against Arizona. His average per reception (8.2) is lower than his rushing average (8.2) on six attempts.

At least Taylor needs more than two hands to count his reception total. Veteran wideouts Marcus Robinson and Frank Sanders have five and four catches, respectively, which is less than running backs Chester Taylor and Lewis and blocking tight end Terry Jones.

"I would love to have that one back that I dropped on the sidelines last game, but things happen and you have to move on," Taylor said. "A lot of people are frustrated. The most important thing is we're winning, but we're not passing well. The numbers don't lie.

"Jamal is taking a beating, and that's not fair to him. Maybe Sunday will be the day where we show what we're capable of." The Ravens finished last season ranked 27th in the league in passing offense with 177.9 yards a game. Now, they've dropped five spots in the rankings with 80.7 yards less. Boller has the lowest quarterback rating in the league with a 48.9 mark.

"As a quarterback, I would love to throw for 350 yards, five touchdowns, but when you are running the ball as well as we are, you have to continue to do that until a team can stop us," Boller said. Lewis is on pace to break Eric Dickerson's single-season NFL rushing mark.

"We need to catch the ball outside more and be able to take a lot of people out of the box," Lewis said. "We need to make this a 50-50 offense."

Billick has downplayed any talk about dissension in the ranks, noting that the lack of balance is something the coaching staff and players are working hard to address. He said Lewis' comments simply reflect the reality of the situation and the opinion felt throughout the football team. "Those of you that want to intimate that there's frustration or angst in the locker room or division, you're wrong," Billick said. "That's not what that's about. He made a valid observation, and it's not one anyone's made differently."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.


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