Moore struggling with hands, confidence

OWINGS MILLS – One bad game can represent a lapse in concentration. Twice can be explained as a coincidence. The third time qualifies as a legitimate negative trend. For Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Clarence Moore, multiple dropped passes during the majority of the preseason has extended into the regular season and opened questions about his status as a starter.

In the final seconds of the first half in the Ravens' 24-7 loss to Indianapolis, Moore flubbed a pass deep in Colts territory that could have set up a game-tying field goal. He compounded the error by committing a false start penalty on the ensuing play.

The Ravens' operative plan is for the 6-foot-6, 220-pound Moore to act as a complementary target opposite No. 1 wideout Derrick Mason. Yet, after an offseason where he gained weight, strength and the coaches' confidence, Moore is struggling with fundamentals. He doesn't look especially tough over the middle, which plagued him as a rookie last season.

"Hopefully, the last little bit is an aberration, a confidence thing that he can fight through," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "He is a good young man. He has looked so good in training camp, so good in preseason. Hopefully, this won't linger with him, but he is the only one who can address that."

Moore led the Ravens last season with four touchdown catches, mostly on jump balls. This was supposed to be the season where he emerges as an all-around target capable of doing more than exploiting his superior size and leaping ability.

"I need to focus a lot more during the week and focus more during the game," said Moore, who caught two passes for 36 yards against the Colts. "I can't explain none of it. I can't explain none of the drops.

"I think I just started to get out of my game a little bit. I've got to learn that you've got to play the next play. You have to stay in the game."

Throughout the offseason, the coaching staff lauded Moore for improving his size, bulk and route-running.

Is the sixth-round draft pick being asked to play a role that's beyond his capabilities? Or would Moore be better suited to a limited, specialized role?

Moore has proven he's capable of making big plays, especially in the red zone. His consistency is the primary issue.

"I can't worry about whether I'm going to be starting," Moore said. "I just have to play my role, work hard and do what I'm asked to do."

First-round draft pick Mark Clayton is another option, but the Ravens like the contrast between Moore and Mason (5-10, 192 pounds). The thinking is that Clayton's game is fairly similar to Mason's.

Clayton, who caught five passes for 44 yards in his NFL debut, has had a few drops caused by being overly eager.

"He's still got to learn to catch and then run, as opposed to run and then catch," Billick said of Clayton.

The Ravens appear to be sticking behind Moore while hoping he snaps out of this slump.

"We can do everything we can to help buoy him up to work him through it," Billick said, "but ultimately he is the one who has to pull his confidence back together and impact the game the way we know he can."

NOTES: The Ravens allowed three sacks to the Colts, including one where quarterback Kyle Boller was knocked out of the game with a hyperextended right big toe. "Our job is to protect the quarterback," offensive guard Edwin Mulitalo said. "Kyle got hurt, so we take that personally. Hopefully, we can correct those things that we did and put it behind us. A lot of things that we did, we did to ourselves." … Offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden didn't allow a sack to Dwight Freeney, but Ogden was flagged for two false starts. Plus, Freeney was unblocked on several runs. "Nothing seemed to go our way and it was our own fault," Ogden said. "At inopportune times, someone would do something. Until the last drive, we couldn't sustain anything. I'd rather give up three sacks and get a win. I don't take any pleasure in winning an individual matchup when you don't win the game." … Fullback Alan Ricard, who was deactivated against the Colts even though he said he has recovered from a calf injury, is now listed second on the depth chart behind Ovie Mughelli. "Just the competitiveness in me, I want to play," said Ricard, a Pro Bowl alternate in 2003 when Lewis rushed for 2,066 yards and was named the NFL Offensive Player of the Year. "I want to help the team any way possible. I guess the game plan was for other people to make plays and I just hope this week I'll be able to get back in there." The Ravens used tight end Daniel Wilcox, who caught eight passes for 78 yards, as a blocking back at times. "If it was up to me, I would have been out there, but it isn't up to me," Ricard said. "So, we'll just see what the game plan is for this week."

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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