Fassel out to shift Ravens into gear

Offensive problems leave coordinator frustrated

`we're going to get better'

September 23, 2005|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,Sun reporter

Jim Fassel said the spiraling Ravens' offense has worked on the basics during the bye week, or as the first-year coordinator likes to say, "keep sawing wood."

So, at what point do the Ravens consider directing that saw at the starting lineup?

Coach Brian Billick said there would be no changes to an ineffective offensive line this week. He was more vague as to whether inconsistent receiver Clarence Moore would receive less playing time.

But if the problems continue on offense, Fassel seems more inclined to shake up the depth chart.

"Brian is the head coach, and we'll do what he ultimately wants," Fassel said. "But I'm not going to sit on my hands and just watch this thing. We're going to get better."

Fassel is frustrated because he sees the talent with four former Pro Bowl players. He sees the potential after watching the progress made over countless practices in minicamps and training camp.

But the Ravens have nevertheless reverted to their usual lackluster production in the team's 0-2 start.

The offense has given up as many touchdowns (two interceptions returned for scores) as it has scored. Half of its 138 offensive plays have gone for either no gain or negative yardage.

The only team to score less than the Ravens (17 points) is the Houston Texans, who fired their offensive coordinator after totaling 14 points the first two games.

According to Fassel, the offense still lacks confidence after ranking 21st or worse the past three seasons.

"When you haven't had success and you are under the heavy lenses, the first thing that goes wrong and you're like, `Oh no,'" Fassel said. "We need to get over that hump. We need to make things happen to feel good, to get the momentum."

It's an uphill climb for both the running and passing games.

The Ravens rank last in the NFL in rushing at 45.5 yards a game. Their yards per pass attempt (5.97) are seventh worst in the league, only a fraction better than last year's meager clip (5.5).

An emphasis this offseason was producing a big play in the passing game (25 or more yards) once every 10 throws. The Ravens have managed just two on 95 passes, and one was a desperation lateral to end the season opener's first half.

Asked if he could pinpoint the overriding problem of the offense, Fassel said, "I don't know. I think sometimes you search for answers and you go back to the basics. We've just got to keep pushing and working and trying to get better. The most perplexing thing to me is we all felt we were progressing."

The mistakes of the offense can be shared equally.

The offensive line has not opened holes for the running backs and has failed to protect the quarterback. The quarterback - whether it has been Kyle Boller or Anthony Wright - has tripped over his own feet and has missed open receivers. And the receivers have dropped several passes.

"From the standpoint of offense, all you need is one guy breaking down and it doesn't look very good," Fassel said. "That's what is happening and it bothers me. I take full responsibility. That's my job."

Like Billick, Fassel had a strong offensive resume before joining the Ravens.

In his 11 seasons as either an NFL head coach or coordinator, his offenses ranked lower than 17th only three times. He commanded a top-10 offense four times, including 2001 and 2002 with the New York Giants.

"Deep inside, I know we can fix this thing and get going," Fassel said. "Now, the clock is running. What gives me hope is we can go out in practice and do it. Now, let's make that transition into games. That's what gives me hope to keep working."

Notes -- The Ravens added quarterback Brian St. Pierre to their practice squad after Derek Anderson failed to clear waivers (he was signed by the Cleveland Browns). St. Pierre was the third-string quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers the previous two seasons. "We're sorry to lose Derek, but it's always a possibility when you make those roster moves," Billick said. ... Billick said no one should jump to conclusions about Ed Reed moving his locker away from Ray Lewis. "It has nothing to do with what you all want to intimate," Billick said. According to Billick, Reed wanted to have his locker closer to the cold tub and the side door, which would allow him to avoid the media. ... Boller was relieved when he was told that his hyperextended toe did not need surgery. He could return by late October. "The doctor made me feel good about it," he said. "I feel that if I listen to what they say, I'll be back out there very soon."

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

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