Ravens' offense opens a few eyes

BALTIMORE -- The scorching weather didn't approach the heat the Baltimore Ravens' offense is accustomed to facing from the NFL's top-ranked defense. Despite a field-level temperature of 141 degrees, the Ravens performed as if they were shielded from the blazing sun during a 10-7 scrimmage victory over the Washington Redskins before 25,332 at red-hot M&T Bank Stadium.

Minutes into the workout, quarterback Steve McNair connected with Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap over the middle for a 17-yard reception that set up a 22-yard Matt Stover field goal. Later, the second-team offense marched on a 60-yard drive capped by running back P. J. Daniels' 1-yard touchdown run.

"When you play against the No. 1 defense in the NFL, it's kind of hard to see how good our offense really is," said McNair, who completed all three of his passes for 33 yards. "Coming out, we moved the ball and made some plays down the field. That shows where we're at and how far we've got to improve."

Baltimore engineered two scoring drives. The Ravens' first and second-string quarterbacks combined for 8 of 11 accuracy and 121 yards.

"We got on a roll offensively a little bit with the first team, and that's always good to see," Heap said. "It's exciting. I want to see how we can stretch the field. It's going to be fun."

Afterward, the Ravens didn't seem surprised by how efficiently they moved the football. Especially at how they capitalized at not having to contend with the Ravens' stingy defense, which was granted the day off following passing drills that preceded the scrimmage.

"Absolutely not," said tight end Daniel Wilcox, who caught two passes for 53 yards. "We've got a great defense. We have to see them everyday in practice. So a lot of times in practice we're off our rhythm.

"People are doing all kinds of crazy stuff. We never get a chance to game-plan for them. The Redskins are the closest thing we've seen to a regular defense this year, so it wasn't a surprise to me."

Perhaps no player demonstrated more progress than backup quarterback Kyle Boller, a former starter who completed 5 of 8 passes for 88 yards.

He appeared calm in the pocket for the most part, lobbing a 39-yard pass off his back foot to Wilcox. Although Boller was errant on two throws inside the Redskins' 5, he set up Daniels' score with three completions for 58 yards.

"The game has really slowed down," said Boller, a former first-round draft pick entering the final year of his contract. "I just feel really comfortable out there. I'm not nervous. I just go out there and go through my reads and have fun."

Added Ravens coach Brian Billick: "He had some rhythm."

Wilcox was all by himself on his big reception, bolting past defenders who didn't account for him in a loose zone alignment.

"After I caught the ball, I turned around and I've never seen so much green grass in my life," Wilcox said.

Meanwhile, emerging second-year wideout Demetrius Williams continued to impress. He caught three passes for 38 yards and was targeted heavily by Boller and McNair.

"I wouldn't say my routes were working all that well, but it's a lot different going against somebody else's defense rather than going against our own defense," Williams said. "It changed some of the looks for us."

Williams kept creating separation with his athleticism, keeping the Redskins' secondary on their heels with his polished routes and cuts.

"He's an excellent kid, his persona, how hard he works on the field, an excellent athlete," Wilcox said. "He runs his routes to perfection. He has a lot of shakes, a lot of speed. He's the total package in a wide receiver that you could possibly ask for."

Meanwhile, new franchise running back Willis McGahee was used sparingly in his Baltimore debut after being acquired in a trade from the Buffalo Bills this offseason.

The former Pro Bowl runner gained nine yards on four carries, catching one pass for three yards. "I got my feet wet out of there with my teammates, which is always a plus," McGahee said. "I can't wait for the opener. I'm geeked up."

The Redskins sat their first-string offense with their backups only generating two first downs during their first 10 plays.

Later, Washington rookie quarterback Jordan Palmer hit diving wide receiver Burl Toler for a 24-yard touchdown pass behind undrafted rookie cornerback Terrell Maze for the Redskins' only score.

For the most part, especially swarming rookie linebacker Prescott Burgess, the defensive reserves controlled the tempo.

"It's a testament to our scouting department bringing in quality players playing Ravens football," linebacker Bart Scott said.

The Ravens escaped the game unscathed by injuries, and Billick and Redskins coach Joe Gibbs agreed to scrap the final series due to concerns about the oppressive heat.

The Ravens won't compete against another team until Aug. 13 when they open the preseason at home against the Philadelphia Eagles.

"Pretty good," Billick said. "We got a lot done. It was a good day."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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