Ravens looking to correct mistakes

OWINGS MILLS -- It was an admittedly ugly display of football, a setback punctuated by sloppiness and borderline behavior. The Baltimore Ravens want to make people forget about last week's preseason debacle, and they don't have to travel far to do so as they take on the Washington Redskins tonight at FedEx Field.

One week removed from a 13-12 loss to the New York Giants at M&T Bank Stadium that included 11 penalties and a turnover, the Ravens are eager to correct a hefty collection of miscues.

"My outlook is to come out and start fast," running back Willis McGahee said. "That's the whole game plan: to show everybody we're not that team that played last week. We want to come out as a perfectionist team."

Perfection would reflect a near polar opposite than what transpired against the Giants. The defending AFC North champions committed seven false start or neutral zone infractions, veteran quarterback Steve McNair forced an interception into heavy coverage and the defense got picked apart by Eli Manning.

"We just didn't take care of business, the stupid little things," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "Hopefully, we've got that out of our system.

"I don't worry about the physicality, but we need to be sharper clearly than we were. So far, it looks like they're going to do that."

One area in definite need of improvement is the running game where McGahee, a former Pro Bowl runner acquired in a trade from the Buffalo Bills, has yet to make a discernible impact other than a 16-yard run against the Philadelphia Eagles. He has rushed for 23 yards on 10 carries, a 2.3 average.

"It's hard to do anything when you get in those first-and-long and second-and-long situations," McGahee said. "Hopefully, we won't have those same obstacles this week."

McGahee is trying to get accustomed to the Ravens' West Coast offense and develop timing with new personnel. So far, it's been a slow process compounded by penalties and a lack of ideal blocking.

"It's starting to click, but you've got to take advantage of every opportunity," McGahee said. "I'm not in there long, but I would love to break a 20 or 30-yard run."

Despite the lack of productivity, including one catch for one yard, McGahee's teammates aren't discouraged.

"I think Willis has done a great job," McNair said. "He's running the ball well. He's doing great in the passing game.

"I think when you combine the two, you have a complete back. So, we're looking forward to start game-planning and start giving him the ball."

Although Billick refused to be pinned down on how long the starters will play other than saying they won't play into the second half, McNair declared that the first-string will play two quarters. That should be enough time to rebuild some rhythm after last week when McNair completed 5 of 8 passes for just 29 yards, no touchdowns and a 29.7 quarterback rating.

"I think the chemistry is there," McNair said. "We just have to cut out some of the mental mistakes. We've got so much talent on offense. I think we've got a good shot at having a great offense.

"I think this will showcase what we've got. We'll see how good we are going into a half, going out there and executing after two quarters."

The Ravens opened the preseason with a 12-play, 93-yard drive capped by McNair's touchdown pass to tight end Quinn Sypniewski, but took a step backwards with the flurry of flags.

"I think we had some good plays, but we had a lot of penalties that were obviously unfortunate," tight end Todd Heap said. "We can't have those if we want to get where we want to go."

A few players cautioned about not overreacting to one bad preseason game that followed a pristine 29-3 victory over the Eagles.

"I think everybody is really blowing it out of proportion," linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "You want to hit the panic button on a preseason game?"

Several starters, especially middle linebacker Ray Lewis, have been griping about the length and potential risk involved in the preseason. "By about the third game, you get tired of it," McNair said. "Overall, it becomes a drag, but that's part of the business."

For younger prospects, though, this is a pivotal night.

Especially for second-year cornerback David Pittman, a surprising choice to start with cornerback Samari Rolle out with a sprained ankle.

"This is a big game for me," said Pittman, a disappointment as a third-round pick who didn't play a single snap last season. "I just want to make the most of it and show what I can do."

Meanwhile, the Ravens have to cut their active roster down to 75 players by Tuesday, meaning this will be the final game for at least six players.

Running back Cory Ross, the Ravens' leading rusher with 85 yards on 16 carries, wants to make the organization's decision as difficult as possible on whether to keep five running backs.

That decision won't be made until after the final preseason game, but this is another chance for Ross to shine with P. J. Daniels sidelined with a tweaked hamstring.

"As an athlete, you always want to show what you're all about," Ross said. "Every game is a golden opportunity."

Wide receiver Devard Darling is trying to fend off Clarence Moore in the battle for the fourth wide receiver job.

Darling has done more to distinguish himself lately, catching three passes for 39 yards with Moore catching two for 14 yards. Plus, he's trying to make a name for himself on special teams.

"The more you can do, the more you can help the team," Darling said. "I just want to do anything I can to get on the field."

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

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