Ravens Have Work To Do

Among other issues, team will focus on poor running game during bye week

September 20, 2005|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN REPORTER

To dig the Ravens out of their 0-2 hole, coach Brian Billick ruled out any "dramatic changes' yesterday, saying his team only needs to reach back to its roots.

One of the focuses of this bye week is to revitalize the Ravens" once-dominating running attack, which has plummeted to the worst in the NFL.

Without the longtime foundation of their offense, the Ravens have scored two insignificant touchdowns in two games and managed four trips into the red zone in 28 drives this season.

"My biggest disappointment is our inability to run the ball and critical mistakes on both sides of the ball." Billick said. "If we"re going to win, we"re going to have to run the ball more."

After gaining just 14 yards on the ground in Sunday's 25-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans - the low mark in the franchise's 146-game history - the Ravens rank last in the league in rushing yards per game (45.5), 31st in attempts per game (17) and 30th in yards per carry (2.7).

Those are startling rushing numbers for a Ravens offense that has finished in the top 11 in four of the past five seasons. But the Ravens have yet to establish the run this season because of poor blocking, a new offensive scheme and Jamal Lewis" health.

The Ravens have wanted to pace Lewis back after a nagging bone spur in his ankle sidelined him most of the preseason. But Billick indicated Lewis can handle 25 to 30 carries again.

"One of the biggest questions I had to my staff is if Jamal is now ready to go." Billick said. "To a man, we believe he is."

Lewis was limited to 10 yards on nine carries Sunday. Although he broke a 13-yard run, he was held to minus-4 yards on the eight other attempts.

Part of the problem could be the Ravens" formations.

Instead of lining a tight end in the backfield, Billick said it is "very possible' that they"ll revert back to their traditional I-formation with a fullback as the lead blocker. That means Alan Ricard, who led the way for Lewis" 2,066-yard season in 2003, would return to the starting lineup.

"With this bye week, Alan ought to be fully healthy." said Billick, referring to Ricard's calf injury. "So that will be an asset that we"ll have to utilize."

Still, the Ravens can only commit to the run when the game is manageable.

Excluding their meaningless fourth quarters, the Ravens have been outscored 33-3 in their first two games . That has led to an unbalanced offense of 104 pass plays and 34 running ones.

"We"ll have to be in games that are more controllable [so] that we don't put ourselves in a position where we have [to pass] to catch up." Billick said.

Billick was more vague on quarterback Kyle Boller's condition and receiver Clarence Moore's starting job.

Boller, who is out indefinitely with a hyperextended big toe, met with a specialist yesterday about whether he needed surgery. A decision is expected some time this week, according to Billick.

"I don't know where that prognosis is right now." Billick said.

Another question mark is Moore, who has more drops (three) than catches (two) this season. When asked if he would replace Moore with Mark Clayton or Randy Hymes, he did not dismiss the possibility.

"We"ll stick with all of our guys, but clearly we need to have the people on the field that are going to make the plays." Billick said. "After we get through this week and look at what the game plan is going to be, we"ll make whatever changes we have to in order to get the right people on the field in the right situations."

Other issues that need to be addressed before their Oct. 2 game against the New York Jets is their porous pass protection on offense, their nonexistent quarterback pressure on defense and this growing culture of losing. Dating back to last season, the Ravens have lost six of their past eight games, beating only the New York Giants and the Miami Dolphins.

"I am accountable." Billick said, "and I am going to be the one that has to put us on course to correct it."

In a matter of two weeks, the Ravens have gone from a playoff contender to a team desperately needing one win.

"This [bye] has to be all about beating the New York Jets." Billick said.

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