Ravens need a new receiving corps, except for Heap

BALTIMORE – The usual suspects keep committing the same crimes of the gridiron. Culprits don't tend to change for the Baltimore Ravens. This is a football team with potential that's overshadowed by chronic fumbling, hands of granite and ludicrous lapses of judgment and concentration.

This recidivist pattern was on display in the Ravens' confounding 37-25 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday afternoon. Instead of capitalizing on the Pittsburgh Steelers' loss, the Ravens gained nothing but frustration. Magnifying the problems of a moribund offense were these shortcomings: an injury-riddled, drop-prone receiving corps, the inconsistency of quarterback Jeff Blake, running back Jamal Lewis' two fumbles plus two blocked punts.

"It's like a domino effect," Blake said after the unraveling.

Memo to the skill players who didn't demonstrate much skill in dropping seven passes and two interceptions: The football is your friend. It won't hurt you. Catch it. Hold on to it. Run forward. Repeat that sequence and you will have job security.

 "Who would you like me to change?" Ravens coach Brian Billick asked rhetorically. "Oh, I'll put the young guys in. Oh, excuse me, we already have the young guys in. There's no one coming in on a white horse."

Obviously not yet, but that doesn't mean it isn't time to begin a star search. Memo to the Ravens' competent gentlemen who scour the nation for talent: Identify some attractive options for Blake, or the sore-backed Chris Redman, beyond terrific tight end Todd Heap. This collection does little to inspire confidence or the imagination of offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh.

"Myself, personally, it's me getting overanxious," said rookie Ron Johnson, who didn't catch a pass and stumbled before failing to secure the ball against his body on one of his two drops. "I've been playing football all my life, but I'm overthinking. I'm doing stuff too fast. If you're not doing your job, they will find someone else to do it."

It's unclear how high in the draft the Ravens will select, but they should investigate these receivers thoroughly: Michigan State's Charlie Rogers, Texas' Roy Williams and Miami's Andre Johnson. If only Pitt's gifted freshman Larry Fitzgerald was available.

Unless the auction becomes too rich for the Ravens' blood, they should consider bidding on proven wideouts like the Rams' Isaac Bruce, the Cardinals' David Boston or the Bills' Peerless Price.

The speculation doesn't offend Taylor, anointed as the featured target as the 10th pick in the 2000 NFL Draft.

"We've got to do our jobs," said Taylor, who caught five passes, but dropped a few accurate Blake attempts. "If we don't, they will get somebody else in here."

Memo to the coaching staff: Settle on a quarterback. Surround him with credible players. Develop a more creative offensive strategy than this current scheme. Taylor noticed a troubling consequence of his unit's struggles.

"I can see by the look in Jeff's eyes that he doesn't have a lot of confidence in us right now," Taylor said. "We have to get that confidence somehow, some way."

 Unfortunately for Taylor and Co., it's a problem that might eventually be taken out of their hands altogether.

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