Ravens Camp Report: Looking for offensive progress

WESTMINSTER -- Kyle Boller scanned the football field, swiveling his helmet until he found what he was looking for.<br><br> He then delivered a high spiral behind the secondary into the outstretched hands of a streaking Travis Taylor on Monday morning at McDaniel College. Touchdown, Ravens.<br><br> It was textbook quarterbacking without even a hint of the mechanical breakdowns that typified his rookie season with the Baltimore Ravens.<br><br>

The major caveats, though, to being too optimistic about Boller's initial progress: These are training camp practices, not real football games. And the defending AFC North champions have no intentions of losing their reputation as a smash-mouth, run-oriented football team.

The Ravens have defined their goals as increasing efficiency through a higher completion percentage in an effort to improve a one-dimensional offense. Last season, the team ranked last in the league in passing and first in rushing behind NFL Offensive Player of the Year Jamal Lewis.

The team is hoping for a few more completions per game after averaging 140.9 yards per contest last year.

"It's about baby steps every day," offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh said. "We're looking for progress when we evaluate the film, just trying to be a little bit better throwing the football. It's going to be a camp-long process.

"It's not just going to be Kyle throwing the ball better. It's got to be the guys catching the ball and making more yards after the catch. Then, we'll have a more efficient passing game and much better balance than we did last year."

Last season, Boller, 23, was the second-lowest ranked quarterback in the NFL with a 62.4 rating. He was 5-4 as a starter before injuring his quadriceps, throwing seven touchdowns with nine interceptions.

He averaged 5.6 yards per attempt and completed 51.8 percent of his passes. The team has set a goal of completing 60 percent of its attempts.
Now, the former Cal-Berkeley star feels like he's progressed to the point where he can be counted on more and help move the team all the way to a spot in the Super Bowl to be held in Jacksonville, Fla.

"My goal is to be a quarterback on this team, to be a leader, to be efficient, to move the chains and to score a lot of touchdowns," Boller said. "If I can do that, I think we'll have a good chance."

Toward their goal of helping Boller develop, the Ravens hired former New York Giants coach Jim Fassel as a senior consultant.
Fassel has had a hand in developing quarterback standouts such as John Elway, Kerry Collins, Phil Simms and Boomer Esiason. His latest reclamation project is Boller.

"I don't want him to think he has to play lights-out every game," Fassel said. "He's still inexperienced. If he tries to do that, he could end up costing the team a game. All he has to do is be good to very good. That's why I want him to become fundamentally sound.

"He's got all the right things. What we need to do is get him in a consistent mode with his mechanics and make him an efficient drop-and-throw quarterback. He can do that."

"He's doing some good things," Ravens coach Brian Billick said of Boller. "There are some mistakes here and there, but he's getting to the point where when he makes a mistake he knows just about the time the ball leaves his hands.

"Now, if we can just get it before it leaves his hands, then we're in pretty good shape. He's progressing nicely."

Meanwhile, the Ravens' winning formula will remain centered around a dominant defense that ranked third in the NFL last season and Lewis, who gained a league-high 2,066 yards last season.

Last season, the Ravens averaged 167.1 rushing yards per contest. The team had 552 rushing attempts for 2,674 yards and 18 touchdowns. In contrast, the team threw the ball only 415 times for 2,517 yards and 16 touchdowns.

"Over the last two years, we've always talked about improving the passing game," All-Pro left tackle Jonathan Ogden said. "I think hopefully this year it will be put to use."

Besides Boller's on-the-job learning curve, including nine fumbles of which he lost five, he coped with several dropped passes. Taylor slumped to 39 receptions last season and ranked among the league leaders with a dozen dropped passes, according to Stats, Inc. He has been moved back to split end.
The Ravens traded for Kevin Johnson to be their starting flanker. He has averaged 66 catches in five seasons.

Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap remained the team's most viable downfield option and often goes in motion or lines up at wide receiver. Heap caught a team-high 57 passes last year.

"We're not going into it blindly," Heap said. "We've set out some goals in our minds that we're going to get better on this down, on this passing percentage. We're going to try to throw less interceptions.

"It's not a matter of making big plays down the field all of the time. It's a matter of doing the little things, making a few more completions per game."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

Ravens Insider Top Stories