Mason is Ravens' lone offensive bright spot

OWINGS MILLS -- While the Baltimore Ravens' investment in wide receiver Derrick Mason is paying immediate dividends statistically, the two-time Pro Bowl selection is far from satisfied with what's happening. Mired in an 0-2 hole while tied for second in the league in receptions feels way too similar to last year for Mason's taste. He led all NFL receivers with 96 receptions, but the Tennessee Titans won only five football games.

Now, Mason represents the primary silver lining on a putrid offense that has managed only two inconsequential touchdowns and a field goal while giving away nine sacks and six turnovers.

"I was in the same position last year where I was doing well, but my team wasn't winning and it's a bad feeling," said Mason, who chose Baltimore in free agency over the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. "It's good that you're in a rhythm personally, but it's bad from the position that your team isn't winning.
"I know we will get everything together and get a win. We need it right now. You can't go into a season 0-3. Hopefully, we can regroup and get healthy with a win against the Jets."

Through two games, Mason has registered 16 receptions for 159 yards and a touchdown. With eight receptions in each of his first two games with Baltimore, Mason is on pace for a career-high 128 receptions along with 1,272 yards and 16 touchdowns.

In a 25-10 loss to the Titans last Sunday, Mason caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from Anthony Wright. If little else has gone right for the Ravens' sluggish offense under new offensive coordinator Jim Fassel, at least Mason has been productive.

"There's no question that Derrick Mason has performed well," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "Derrick Mason is not the reason we haven't performed offensively. We have every reason to believe that as we get our run game cranked back up that the presence of Derrick Mason will indeed bounce us out in a way that we anticipated from the get-go."
The Ravens rank last in the NFL in rushing, averaging 45.5 yards per contest despite the return of former Pro Bowl runner Jamal Lewis. That shortcoming has contributed mightily to the team's struggles, cutting down on the effectiveness of play-action passes.

Plus, pass protection has faltered to the point where the Ravens are down to Wright, their second quarterback. Starter Kyle Boller is out until mid to late October with a hyperextended right big toe incurred on a sack against the Indianapolis Colts.

"We can only control what we do and just do our job," Mason said. "Everything else will work itself out. I know the offensive line is going to do their job. They're thinking the same way we all do about being 0-2.

"We've got to fix some things whether it be offense, defense, special teams. Whether something is broke or not, we're doing our job and people will catch up."

In relief of Boller, Wright has completed 44 of 71 passes for 426 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions for a 70.5 quarterback rating. Those unimpressive numbers do include a budding connection with Mason, though.

"Having Anthony as our starting quarterback right now, there is no big change," Mason said. "We're beginning to develop a rhythm together and that's going to be big as we try to fight our way out of this small hole. We can change this situation we're in and we'll be fine."
NOTES: The Ravens signed former Pittsburgh Steelers No. 3 quarterback Brian St. Pierre to the practice squad one day after former Ravens rookie quarterback Derek Anderson was signed by Cleveland Browns general manager Phil Savage.

The Ravens had hoped Anderson would clear waivers and sign with their practice squad.

"We're sorry to lose Derek, but it's always a possibility when you make those roster moves," Billick said.

Entering his third season in the NFL, St. Pierre played in one game last season against the Buffalo Bills, throwing an incompletion and gaining a first down on a bootleg run.

In Pittsburgh, the former Boston College standout was behind quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger, Tommy Maddox and Charlie Batch.

"I'm happy to get a fresh start," St. Pierre said. "That was a tough situation for me because Pittsburgh was so deep at that position." ...

Billick defended the offensive line, noting that the first three out of six sacks surrendered to the Titans were attributable to Wright falling down twice and a tight end missing a block.

"I think we've got to be careful about overreacting to their responsibility," Billick said. "They know they need to do better." …

Fullback Alan Ricard has regained his health and his smile as he's in line for more playing time with the Ravens' plan to use their traditional I-formation.

"I'm happy now," said Ricard, a 2003 Pro Bowl alternate who was inactive the first two games. …

Wide receiver Randy Hymes is from Galveston, Texas, which is in the danger zone for Hurricane Rita's destructive path. His family evacuated days ago, but he's worried about their homes.

"They could be gone after this one hits, you just don't know," Hymes said. ...

Billick complimented undrafted rookie safety B.J. Ward.

"Big, physical athlete, showing up on special teams and seems to get better with every rep," Billick said.

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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