Ravens notebook: Offense continues to stumble

OWINGS MILLS -- Inside his corner office at the Baltimore Ravens' training complex in late July, Brian Billick deemed this to be his most talented football team. Of course, that statement was made prior to a series of disasters created by an offense that doesn't score nearly enough points and commits way too many turnovers.

It's the predictable byproduct of an inefficient red-zone attack, not being equipped to run the football nearly as well as previous renditions or pass consistently.

The last-place Ravens (2-7) thought they had upgraded the NFL's last-ranked offense in 2004 by dismissing offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh and replacing him with Jim Fassel, signing two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Derrick Mason, drafting receiver Mark Clayton in the first round and Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap regaining his health.

Yet, there's a major disconnect between the supposed ability and the outcome on the field.

"It comes to a point where you know you have the talent, but talent without results doesn't mean anything," Mason said. "That's where we're at right now: talent without progress. You could have all the talent in the world, but if you don't make any progress, it's nothing."

It has been a whole lot of nothing for the offense despite Mason being tied for second in the AFC with 53 receptions and on pace for 94 catches, which would shatter the team's record of 76 established by Michael Jackson in 1996.

The Ravens rank last in scoring with 11.1 points per contest and are the only team in the league that hasn't scored 20 points.

The running game has ground to a halt with Jamal Lewis rushing for only 480 yards and one touchdown. He's headed toward a career-low 853 yards.

"Right now, it's a matter of rhythm," Billick said. "Whether it's penalties, whether it's a turnover, whether it's -- for the first time -- the lack of the ability to feel we can dictate the run when we want to, we've got to get back into that rhythm. We're running the ball every way you can run the ball in this league."
The Ravens rank 26th in total offense (277.9 yards), 25th in rushing (91.6 yards) and 24th in passing (186.2 yards). They're 30th in red-zone offense with seven touchdowns in 23 trips inside opponents' 20-yard line.

In four consecutive losses, they haven't scored a touchdown in 11 quarters and have just one in their last 19 quarters.

Besides Mason and Heap combining for nine receptions for 113 yards in a 30-3 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the other three players who caught passes had 10 catches for 21 yards.

"We called a number of shots down the field," Billick said. "The way they were configured they're very good about not giving you it. We hoped we could create an alley or a seam or a mismatch.

"It didn't happen, so we looked for the underneath guys to try to salvage something. There were plenty of shots called to try to get the ball down the field."

However, quarterback Kyle Boller was throttled for four sacks. His awareness and timing were subpar, throwing three interceptions in his first game back from a toe injury.

Boller has an acceptable 60.1 completion percentage, but has no touchdowns and four interceptions for a 7.1 interception percentage and a 44.0 passer rating.

This latest performance has prompted scathing criticism of the 2003 first-round draft pick.

"I'm convinced that Kyle Boller can't play," outspoken former Ravens tight end Shannon Sharpe said on his radio show Monday. "I have seen nothing in his mechanics. I've seen nothing in his ability. I've seen nothing that would indicate to me that you can build a franchise around this guy.

"Here's the thing: Kyle Boller plays just good enough to get him cut and you fired, which is a lose-lose situation."

NOTES: The team resumes practice Wednesday after being given two days off. "I kind of challenged them in the locker room a little bit to decide what individually they wanted their mindset to be," Billick said. "We'll take care of it collectively when they get back here." ... The Ravens signed former Maryland tight end Rob Abiamiri, who was cut in August, to the practice squad. ... The Ravens' All-Community Team Foundation donated uniforms for each of the 19 Baltimore City high school girls' basketball teams.

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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