Offense needs lots of fine-tuning

Edwin Mulitalo is an admirer of clocks for their precision, intricate machinery and teamwork. Whether it's a fine Swiss time piece or a Casio, all of those little gears must work in tandem to keep ticking in perfect order. In the case of the Baltimore Ravens' starting offense, a study in how breakdowns can ruin plays, several factors contributed to a touchdown drought by that unit in August.

Three Matt Stover field goals matched the amount of interceptions thrown by new quarterback Chris Redman during drives that Redman led during the preseason.

That's only nine points in four contests by the first-string offense as the Ravens prepare for Sunday's regular-season opener against the Carolina Panthers. If the Ravens' clock isn't exactly busted, then it's certainly in need of some repairs.

 "The offense has to be like a machine and work together as one like a clock," said Mulitalo, a right tackle after moving from left guard. "The line, we have to block. The running backs have to do their job. The receivers have to catch the ball, and Chris has to throw it.

"We're hitting and missing on little things, and that's what's holding us back. If one of us is off, then the whole offense is off."

Redman has thrown three passes in NFL games that count. His status ahead of veteran Jeff Blake has been repeatedly affirmed by the Ravens.

Predictably, Redman has shown the inconsistency young passers are prone to, including a missed read and overthrow for an interception in his debut against Detroit. However, Redman isn't responsible for dropped passes, or linemen lining up in the backfield.

In a 13-0 loss in the preseason finale to the New York Giants, Redman completed half of his 12 attempts for 47 yards, an interception and a quarterback rating of 25.3.

Redman didn't put enough distance on a deep pass to rookie Ron Johnson, who dropped the football after trying to backtrack on damp turf.

Receiver Brandon Stokley didn't play. Fellow starter Travis Taylor left the game with a bruised calf. In the first half, the deepest the Ravens journeyed into Giants territory was the 47-yard line.

"I'm not going to be discouraged," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "It's preseason. To get emotionally distraught over it or feel bad about it would serve no purpose whatsoever.

"You can't give in to that kind of self-pity, and we won't do it."

Searching for answers about the lack of scoring usually brings the Ravens back to the same culprit: failure to capitalize in the red zone. Finishing is what the offense needs to do, Mulitalo said. That means avoiding miscues.

"Each week, we do good things and bad things," said Johnson, who led the Ravens this preseason with 13 receptions for 170 yards and one touchdown. "We're just not making plays. Guys are getting used to playing with each other still."

In Redman's third preseason in Baltimore, he threw for 392 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions on 58 percent accuracy for a rating of 55.9. Last year, he had 69.8 percent accuracy, two touchdowns, three interceptions and a rating of 74.0.

Redman has had his moments, including a solid 15-for-22 night on Aug. 15 against the Jets with no interceptions and a 78.2 rating.

"I think Chris' progression has been good," offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh said. "He's seeing a lot of things for the first time. What comes with that are mistakes. He's going to have some missed reads.

"Everyone needs to keep in mind that it's his first year playing. You spend two years on the sidelines and it has an effect."

Running back Jamal Lewis could be the best antidote to the offense's troubles. A year after tearing up his left knee, Lewis is back and hoping to recapture his rookie stride that produced a club-record 1,364 yards rushing for the Super Bowl champs.

Lewis, 23, carried it a total of nine times for 44 yards in two brief appearances. He said his legs and Redman's arm will eventually translate into steady scoring.

"It could still be a good offense once we work all the kinks out and get into a groove," Lewis said. "That's why we're not really worried. Put all that pressure on me and that could free Redman up, so we can throw the ball over the top."

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