Ravens hoping Lions offense doesn't wake up

OWINGS MILLS -- Despite the hefty investment of six first-round draft picks and millions of dollars in signing bonuses, the Detroit Lions' offense is coughing, sputtering and lifeless. Even though they have a roster dotted with former college All-Americans coached by a prominent Bill Walsh disciple in Steve Mariucci, something is missing.

The West Coast offense and the presence of first-round wideouts Roy Williams, Mike Williams and Charles Rogers, who was suspended this week for four games for violating the NFL substance-abuse policy, hasn't enabled the Lions (1-2) to run or pass effectively.

They rank 29th in total offense (238 yards per game) and are 28th in rushing and 27th in passing.

Yet, the Baltimore Ravens (1-2) are wary of the Lions (1-2) heading into Sunday's game at Ford Field. That's because of the innate talent that populates the Lions' offensive depth chart.

"They have a bunch of guys who can make plays on any part of the field," safety Ed Reed said. "You definitely have to keep your eyes on them. Everybody has to bring their hard hat. They have a great team, great receivers and even a running back."

Running back Kevin Jones, another former first-round pick, is off to a slow start. He has rushed for only 147 yards and a touchdown on 45 carries, a 3.3 average.

And the Lions' offense averages only 12 points per contest, 29th out of 32 teams. That's only two spots ahead of the Ravens, who average 10 points.

"Not my problem," Ravens coach Brian Billick said of the Lions' dormant offense. "I hope it continues. They certainly have the talent to make that hit. That's what we have to consider."

In particular, Roy Williams is dangerous. He is tied for the Lions' lead in receptions with 10 with former Ravens starter Kevin Johnson.

However, Williams is averaging 16.3 yards per reception. Johnson's 10 catches have gained only 85 yards.

"We always strive to be balanced," Mariucci said. "We don't necessarily have a go-to guy that we feature and we feed the ball to. We are trying to spread the welfare a little bit."
Oft-criticized quarterback Joey Harrington is completing only 53.3 percent of his passes and is the second-lowest rated passer in the NFL with a 57.3 passer rating. He actually threw five interceptions in a loss to the Chicago Bears.

Earlier this week at practice, Lions general manager Matt Millen yelled at players and Harrington huddled up the offense to urge them to maintain their focus.

With a straight face, Reed actually described Harrington as a great quarterback.

"We all go through growing pains, and it's going to be a struggle at times," Reed said. "I'm sure he's going to get through it. If he doesn't, that's why this is a business and somebody else is going to have to come in. I'm sure he's shooting to get better, and I'm sure he will."

Harrington has been sacked seven times, and Baltimore had five sacks last week in a 13-3 win over the New York Jets.

"We've got to rattle Joey," defensive end Terrell Suggs said. "I've been chasing him for five years since I played against him when he was at Oregon. I've never seen him get frenzied, but you can make him wonder what's coming next."

TRAINING ROOM: Fullback Alan Ricard will be a game-time decision, according to Billick. He's questionable with a calf injury that kept him out of practice again Friday.

"We've got to see how it progresses between now and Sunday," Billick said. "It did very well last week from Thursday evening to that Sunday."

Nickel back Dale Carter injured his shoulder during practice Friday and is listed as questionable. If he can't play, it would increase the snaps for Deion Sanders.

Wide receiver Randy Hymes (ankle) and tight end Daniel Wilcox (hand) were added to the injury report and listed as probable. Both players practiced.

Quarterback Kyle Boller is out of the protective boot and is back in tennis shoes. He has resumed throwing, but isn't projected to return until Oct. 16 at the earliest.

MOTOWN REUNION: For Derrick Mason, going back to his hometown of Detroit is obviously a happy occasion.

The Mumford High graduate and Michigan State football alum just wants to alter what happened the last time he played a football game in Detroit. A loss two years ago when he was with the Tennessee Titans dampened the experience.

"I just don't want the results to be like the last time I went back home," Mason said. "I want to go up there, get a victory and come home."

QUICK HITS: The Ravens are on a four-game road losing streak, averaging only 7.5 points in those losses. … The Lions are 2-14 in their past 16 games against AFC teams. … Return specialist B.J. Sams ranks second in the AFC with an 11.2-yard punt return average. … Practice was shifted to the team's indoor facility due to heavy rains that soaked the practice fields. "You think you could push this into the gym in the way we did in the past with the tempo," Billick said. "What you lose is immeasurable."

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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