Reed way ahead of stumbling offense as usual

WESTMINSTER -- The Baltimore Ravens are banking that only half of what happened during their second practice of training camp represents an accurate barometer of what will transpire this football season. In a blur of instincts and athleticism, Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed took advantage of a telegraphed Kyle Boller pass and coasted into the end zone.

That interception by the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year further cemented the reputation of an aggressive defense being way ahead of their offensive counterparts. Similar renditions of that sequence were repeated often Tuesday morning at McDaniel College.

Reed snagged three interceptions, two from Boller. His errant passes may have stemmed partly from receivers' incorrect routes as first-year offensive coordinator Jim Fassel installs new packages.

Yet, that doesn't completely explain away the quarterbacks tossing six interceptions in one practice.

Nor does it dispel four interceptions from Boller, who was the second-lowest ranked passer in the AFC last season as Baltimore ranked 31st in passing offense. Boller kept staring down primary reads and failed to look off the opportunistic Reed.

"They've got to get better," Ravens coach Brian Billick said of his quarterbacks. "They got betrayed a lot by what was going on around them, but that can't be an excuse. They have to make what was going on around them better.

"If there's an alignment mistake, if they broke the route when they shouldn't have, they've got to communicative and be on the same page."

For Reed, who intercepted a franchise-record nine passes last season, it was as if he was reading the quarterbacks' mind before they even thought about where to throw the football.

He victimized the offense in a manner similar to what he did to the NFL last season when he emerged as one of the league's top game-changing talents.

"We're just trying to prepare defensively," Reed said matter-of-factly. "It's not about how we can shut them down. It gets them better, so hopefully they will improve on the mistakes they made."

Reed established NFL records last season with 358 interception return yards, breaking a 43-year-old record previously set by Charlie McNeil in 1961, and by returning an interception 106 yards for a touchdown against the Cleveland Browns.

"There's only one ball on the field," said Reed, a 2002 first-round pick from the University of Miami. "Anywhere it goes, it tends to come to me.

"I wasn't that good of a quarterback. I threw a lot of interceptions, so maybe God is kind of giving it back to me right now from high school."

In three seasons, Reed has intercepted 21 passes and been named to the Pro Bowl twice.

Last season, he registered 89 tackles, led the team with 17 pass deflections, forced three fumbles with two sacks and two fumble recoveries, one returned for a score.

"Ed is just crazy out there, not just this morning, but everyday," nickel back Deion Sanders said. "He studies, he knows the game. He's a great player and he's going to be for many years."

Meanwhile, the offense is hoping Tuesday is merely a classic case of the pitchers being ahead of the hitters as offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden suggested.

It was definitely a rough outing for an offense that generated only 144.5 passing yards per game last season. The Ravens added two-time Pro Bowl wideout Derrick Mason in free agency and drafted All-American receiver Mark Clayton, who's holding out, in the first round.

"It's good news, bad news," Billick said. "The good news is my team made the interceptions. The bad news is my team made the bad interceptions. It was good to see the offense take it down the field for the score so quickly during the first live period.

"I'm not so sure they didn't kind of sit back and say, ‘Geez, that's a good day.' That was something they need to address."

NOTES: Reed is slated to make $585,000 this year, a relatively low salary considering his Pro Bowl status. He has two years remaining on his original rookie contract.

"I don't even think about it," Reed said. "I'm playing football. With everything that's going on around the league, it's pretty much in everybody's face. Everybody in the world should see that there is a lot that needs to be done as far as contracts go." …

The Ravens have shifted their afternoon practice to their indoor facility in Owings Mills because of the heat. That workout is closed to the public.

In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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