Ravens' passing game in disrepair

OWINGS MILLS - Construction workers are putting the finishing touches on the Baltimore Ravens' ultra-modern $31 million headquarters. Their last-ranked passing game, though, remains in serious disrepair. <br><br> Building confidence and productivity with struggling second-year quarterback Kyle Boller and an injury-riddled receiving corps is a project complicated by the two-game suspension of Pro Bowl running back Jamal Lewis.

Boller, 23, spent his week off during the bye visiting family in California while attempting to erase the frustration of a three-interception, 81-yard showing in a 17-10 win over the Washington Redskins.

"I'm just going to keep my head high and try to perform," Boller said Monday. "I want to be the quarterback everyone wants me to be. I'm just going to try and work hard and make plays."

The Ravens (3-2) are hoping for improvement from Boller with the impending return of wide receiver Travis Taylor from a groin injury against the Buffalo Bills and the improving health of Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap. Heap is a question mark for Sunday's game. Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-1) lead the AFC North after four consecutive wins under impressive rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Boller has completed 62 of 109 passes (56.9 percent) for 650 yards, two touchdowns, five interceptions and a 61.3 passer rating that ranks him 30th out of 32 starters. The Ravens are averaging a league-worst 116.4 passing yards per contest.

Teammates said they aren't concerned about Boller's statistics and remain sure that he'll rebound from a shaky start.

"Kyle is a great quarterback," Taylor said. "He has a strong arm. He's very smart and confident. I'm not worried about Kyle one bit.

"I know he's going to come back this game and throw the ball around the way he has for his whole career. Don't worry about Kyle. He's going to be OK."

The Ravens drafted Boller with the 19th overall pick of the first round last year after trading this year's first-round pick to the New England Patriots. In nine starts last season, he went 5-4 as a starter before injuring his leg.

Boller completed 51.8 percent of his passes for 1,260 yards for seven touchdowns, nine interceptions and a 62. 4 passer rating to rank second-to-last in the NFL.

Inaccuracy, a tendency to lock onto his primary target and breakdowns in fundamentals in stressful situations have hampered Boller along with a receiving corps that lacks a Pro Bowl threat besides Heap and spotty pass protection.

Boller does rank eighth among quarterbacks with 71 rushing yards, including one touchdown.

Against the Redskins, Boller completed 9-of-17 passes, throwing just three passes in the second half after throwing three interceptions in the second quarter.

Through 14 career starts, Boller has completed 53.5 percent of his 333 passes for 1,910 yards, nine touchdowns and 14 interceptions for a 62.0 passer rating.

When asked about how to insulate Boller from criticism, Billick quipped: "Just tell him not to listen to [the media,] we need to keep him arm's length from it. He had a bad game. To put it better, he needs to play better this week.

"If he can continue with the progress that he made from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati to even Kansas City, I will be fine with that and don't see why he wouldn't."

Now, the Ravens' second-ranked running game will be depending on Chester Taylor and Musa Smith in that order. During Lewis' suspension for violating the NFL substance-abuse policy, Boller and the passing game will be counted on more heavily.

"Jamal is definitely the key to the offense, so we know what we need to do," Taylor said. "We have to depend on the pass more. For us to get to where we want to go, we have to throw the ball. That's our mentality right now."

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times and ravensinsider.com
 


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