These two shall pass, teams hope

On the Ravens

October 08, 2005|By MIKE PRESTON

Is that Kyle Boller, or Detroit quarterback Joey Harrington?

The two are so similar it's scary. So when the Ravens meet the Lions tomorrow at Ford Field, it will be like practicing against Boller the past two-plus years, except Harrington has one more season of experience.

Both were highly regarded out of college, and both were taken in the first round of the draft. Both were thrown into the starting lineup almost immediately.

Until recently, neither had a good supporting cast, but both now have an abundance of riches even though neither quarterback nor his offense has lived up to potential. Detroit has only the No. 27-ranked passing offense in the league, averaging 164 yards, and receivers Roy Williams and Mike Williams have had problems holding on to balls.

But Harrington has had his own problems. Coming out of Oregon, he had the reputation of being able to throw a great deep ball (like Boller), but he has yet to demonstrate it.

Often he shows impatience by getting nervous feet, or throwing to the check-down receiver before a rout has developed. He often throws short of receivers, which is an accuracy problem. As has been mentioned several times during Boller's tenure, you can't teach accuracy. You either have it or you don't.

Neither has it.

With things falling apart offensively in Detroit, it's been easy to point the finger at Harrington, just as it has been to point at Boller in Baltimore.

The Ravens, though, will be happy tomorrow. Boller isn't playing. Harrington has completed only 49 of 92 passes for 500 yards and has five interceptions. He played poorly until the final drive against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, and Detroit fans are ready to run him out of town.

Maybe he was just preparing for the Ravens tomorrow. Christmas might come in October for safety Ed Reed and cornerbacks Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle.

Derrick Mason leads the Ravens in receiving with 21 catches for 213 yards and one touchdown, but he is more important to this team than just being a go-to receiver.

Mason has the reputation of being a leader, but he couldn't become one here until he started producing. With each catch, hopefully more and more of his personality will emerge.

The Ravens haven't had an offensive leader since tight end Shannon Sharpe left after the 2001 season. Three of the team's top offensive players - tackle Jonathan Ogden, tight end Todd Heap and running back Jamal Lewis - are quiet and reserved.

Mason is fiery, and his passion shows. As the season goes on, his role as offensive leader will probably go unchallenged.

As long as inside linebacker Ray Lewis is on the roster, it will always be his team.

Second-year defensive tackle/end Dwan Edwards is expected to get some playing time tomorrow with starting end Tony Weaver out for several weeks with turf toe.

Edwards, a second-round draft pick, has been a disappointment so far. One person who hasn't been impressed is Lewis. This week, when asked about Edwards, Lewis gave him a hug and a kick at the same time.

"That's one thing about it. ... Now, he has the opportunity," Lewis said. "You can't hide from anything else anymore. Sometimes you have to come out and play football.

"He has to come in and fill some big shoes. [Losing] Anthony Weaver is a big hit for us, so he has to come in and do some big things for us."

When asked if he thought Edwards would play well, Lewis said: "I don't know. That is easy [to evaluate him in practice]. Live bullets are something totally different. We'll just have to wait for the game to come up, and we'll go from there."

Here's a suggestion for the Ravens.

Stop drafting quarterbacks in the late rounds. Usually, some teams find good offensive linemen in the latter rounds, and last time I looked, the Ravens needed help.

There was a sign outside the complex this week: O-linemen needed.

Since 1996, the Ravens have given us mediocre starting quarterbacks, and they have drafted some in the last couple of rounds that most of us can't, and don't want to remember.

Go ahead, name them. Take a minute. ... Take two. ...

Give up?

There was Wally Richardson taken in the seventh round in 1997, Wes Pate in the seventh round in 2002, Josh Harris in the sixth round in 2004 and Derek Anderson in the sixth round in 2005.

If we want to make it really painful, we can mention Chris Redman, a third-round selection in 2000.

Coach Brian Billick has taken criticism for saying that his team is 1-0 and forgetting about the first two games, both losses.

Hey, folks, stop being so picky. If Billick wants to play that head game, and it works, fine. He's got to motivate this team, and if that's what it takes for him to win, it's a smart coaching move.

He can say whatever he wants, but the bottom line is his final record at the end of the season.

Now, if he is 8-8 at the end of the season and says he is 8-0, then we call the folks in the white jackets.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

Ravens@Lions Tomorrow, 1 p.m., Ch. 13, 1300 AM, 102.7 FM Line: Lions by 1 1/2

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