Ravens primed for passing camp

OWINGS MILLS – The Baltimore Ravens will devote the next four days to upgrading their most chronic shortcoming: the passing game.

The Ravens signed two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Derrick Mason as a free agent and drafted Oklahoma consensus All-American wideout Mark Clayton in the first round to try to boost the NFL's 31st-ranked passing game.

Beginning Monday morning at their training complex as they open a four-day passing camp, the Ravens will begin discovering firsthand the impact of these additions.

For third-year quarterback Kyle Boller, it will be his first formal practice with Mason and Clayton.

After picking Clayton, the Ravens began immediately talking about the potential explosiveness of a tandem that specializes in running after the catch, a major weakness on last year's squad.

"This gives us a lot of latitude in our packages," Ravens coach Brian Billick said.

Last season, the Ravens averaged only 144.2 passing yards per contest as running back Jamal Lewis, tight end Todd Heap and offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden missed a combined total of 18 games.

Heap will not be available for these practices as he recently underwent shoulder surgery that's expected to keep him out for at least a portion, if not the majority of training camp.

Boller improved somewhat during his second season, going 9-7 overall, as he completed 55.6 percent of his passes for 2,559 yards, 13 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He finished as the second-lowest rated passer in the AFC with a 70.9 quarterback rating.

The Ravens will work on routes, timing, throws and learning the terminology of new offensive coordinator Jim Fassel, holding practices for 1 hour and 15 minutes each day through Thursday.

The practices are voluntary, but Boller, Mason and Clayton will attend along with several other skill players, including newly signed starting cornerback Samari Rolle.

All of the receivers are likely to be at practice as they adjust to the additions of Mason and Rolle having creating a new pecking order.

The Ravens were the only team to not have a receiver catch at least 40 passes last season.

Between returning wideouts Clarence Moore, Randy Hymes and Devard Darling, last year's third-round draft pick who missed most of last season with a heel injury, they totaled just 52 receptions, 621 yards and six touchdowns.

When asked how he would rank the Ravens' oft-criticized receiving corps in the league after drafting Clayton and signing Mason, general manager Ozzie Newsome replied: "If you want to put us in the top 15 right now, you probably can, but it's hard to quantify. I can probably answer that better in January of next year."

Aaron Wilson is the chief writer for RavensInsider.Com He is also the Ravens' reporter for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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