Ravens' passing game falling short

OWINGS MILLS -- The Baltimore Ravens' passing game remains stuck in neutral with rookie quarterback Joe Flacco at the controls, a predicament that has spawned a one-dimensional, run-first offense.

Ranked 29th in the NFL in passing with an average of 150.6 aerial yards per game, the Ravens have just one touchdown pass and seven interceptions for the worst ratio in the league. They have the seventh-ranked running game.

Particularly troubling for the offense is the combination thus far of not being able to consistently create separation downfield. Plus, the Ravens haven't always pass blocked well enough to buy sufficient time for Flacco. And Flacco is still learning how to read defenses and deliver the football for deep strikes.

"It's there," wide receiver Derrick Mason said when asked whether there are opportunities to throw deep. "We've tried to throw it deep a bunch of times this year. Last year, you said we didn't throw it deep enough. This year we're throwing it and now it's like, 'Where's the deep ball?'

"It's there, but last game they took it away from us for obvious reasons. We've got the guys that can make the play on the field. It's there, but we've just got to pick and choose and we've got to go out on the field and try not to press the issue. It will come to us."

Flacco is averaging 5.86 yards per passing attempt, which ranks 26th in the NFL. There have been just five completions over 20 yards as Baltimore is averaging 9.4 yards per20reception.

"We've had opportunities," offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. "A team's not going to give you 10 opportunities to throw the ball down the field. Good defenses aren't. So, if you get one or two shots, you need to make the most of them. And we're just that close. We've got the people to do it."

This might be the opponent to try it against, too.

The Dolphins have the NFL's 29th-ranked passing game, allowing 239 passing yards per game.

Drafted in the first round this spring out of Delaware, Flacco is coming off a season-high three interceptions in a 31-3 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

Cameron has been counseling Flacco to attempt more high-percentage throws.

"One thing about Joe, he's not afraid," Cameron said. "He wants to throw the ball up, and he's just got to learn these defenses understand when you can throw the ball up the field, they're going to say, 'Let's see if this guy can throw underneath.'

"You're watching the evolution of a guy based on what coordinators are seeing in him and what they're trying to take away. Over time, he's got a chance to prove to them that he can hurt you no matter which direction. I think he recognizes the coverages, but every young quarterback is greedy. You've got to take those underneath routes."

In losing three consecutive games, the Ravens have committed several turnovers to drop to 27th in the NFL in turnover margin&nbs p;with a minus-four ratio.

"As an offense you can't do that," Mason said. "You can't get anything going when you have that many turnovers. If we don't turn over the ball, then we're able to move the ball. But if you don't have it, you can't move it. We've just got to make better decisions at certain times of the game."

INJURY REPORT: For the second consecutive day, offensive tackle Adam Terry didn't practice due to a lateral meniscus issue and a sprained right knee.

That increases the chances that Chris Chester will start at right guard Sunday against the Miami Dolphins with Marshal Yanda out for the season, and Cameron forecasted that Chester will start Sunday next to right tackle Willie Anderson.

"Now, it's time for Chris Chester to step up, Willie Anderson can build on what he did last week," Cameron said. "Thank goodness we've got Chris Chester.

"Continuity helps, but we can't give ourselves an out and say because we don't have continuity we can't play well. We would like to think we'll get Adam Terry back at some time."

Free safety Ed Reed, who wasn't listed on the first injury report of the week, didn't practice due to a hamstring injury.

Return specialist Yamon Figurs (knee contusion) didn't practice again and is considered unlikely to play this week.

Offensive tackle Jared Gaither (neck stinger, knee) wasn't in uniform at the beginning of practice and was limited in drills.

Wide receiver Demetrius Williams (ankle) returned to practice, but was limited.

Cornerback Fabian Washington (dislocated right shoulder) was limited and is a question mark for Sunday.

"I'm not sure," defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said. "You would like to have your best players out there, so, hopefully, Fabian is ready."

Defensive tackle Lamar Divens (illness) participated fully.

KICKING GAME: Special teams coach Jerry Rosburg acknowledged that Figurs needs to do a better job of gauging when to bring a kickoff out of the end zone.

"The one that he brought out was on the border," he said. "It was a high, deep kick. He was trying to make a play and I appreciate his aggressiveness. That one, we would probably like to keep that one in given the opportunity of a stopwatch and hindsight."

Reed, Jim Leonhard, Mark Clayton and Zbikowski are potential candidates to fill in for Figurs.

Meanwhile, punter Sam Koch is averaging 46.7 yards with a 41.4 net to rank eighth in the NFL and third in the AFC in net average.

"I credit it to Sam," Rosburg said. "He's a prime example of how offseason training can help you in-season. When I arrived in February, Sam and I sat down and talked about what things he thought he needed to get better at. It's Sam's work ethic and it's Sam's talent that's given him an opportunity to punt like this."

Kicker Matt Stover connected on his lone field goal attempt against the Colts, a 37-yarder that prevented a shutout.

Is he back on track?

"It's an ongoing process," Rosburg said. "He had pristine conditions, and everything worked out real well. I think Matt, whatever issues he may have had, I think he's worked through them like you would expect Matt to. I expect good things from Matt all the way down through the stretch of the season."

QUICK HITS: Ryan interviewed for the Dolphins' vacancy last winter, meeting with Bill Parcells. "He's a hell of a guy," Ryan said. "There's no doubt about that. He's like my dad, just what you see is what you get from him. No nonsense. That's a football guy right there, there's no doubt about it. It was enjoyable for me to meet him. It was something that I always knew from afar, and I assumed he'd be like that. He definitely was, so I really enjoyed my visit." ... Ryan took exception with a question about linebacker Bart Scott rarely being used in the blitz package. Two years ago, Scott recorded 9 1/2 sacks to lead all NFL inside linebackers. Scott has a total of two sacks over the past 23 games. "I guess I'm using him wrong again," Ryan said with a laugh. "But it's about all 11. Sometimes, that guy may be featured. Sometimes, he won't be. At the end of the day, you do what's best for the team." ... Linebacker Jarret Johnson has flown under the radar with the exception of a costly personal foul in a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he's quietly having a strong season. He ranks second on the team with 24 tackles and has one sack and a forced fumble. "He's a tough old hombre," Ryan said. "He's better on the pass than he was, so his game is elevating. He's doing a good job as a pass rusher, doing a great job of setting the edge in the running game. He's doing a great job for us." ... Middle linebacker Ray Lewis expressed his condolences about the death of former Ravens fullback Chuck Evans, who died Sunday morning of heart failure. "Chuck was a great and dear friend to me," Lewis said. "Me and Chuck went to war together many times, and he's just one of the greatest men I've ever met. For him to be gone, it's a shocker that he is not here anymore. When something like this shockingly happens to a young guy, it's just almost devastating. But God has an ultimate plan, and hopefully Chuck is already resting." ... Dolphins fullback Casey Cramer (ankle) and cornerback Andre Goodman (non-injury) didn't practice. ... The Ravens have been outscored 20-7 in the fourth quarter.

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