- The Washington Times - Monday, December 9, 2002

BALTIMORE The Baltimore Ravens' first order of business in the offseason might be acquiring some receivers who can catch the ball.
Immediately following yesterday's 37-25 loss to the New Orleans Saints, Ravens coach Brian Billick had a hard time containing his frustration over the poor play of his receivers.
The Ravens' receivers Travis Taylor and rookie Ron Johnson dropped at least seven perfectly thrown passes that would have resulted in first downs and long gains. When asked if he can change his personnel and start some receivers who can actually catch the ball, Billick replied, "To whom? Who would you like me to change? I'll put the young guys in. Oops, excuse me, we've already got the young guys in. Everybody is playing that can play. There is no one coming in on a white horse, everybody is getting an opportunity as best we can."
With plenty of salary cap room for next season, there will be a few attractive free agents available in the offseason like David Boston (Arizona), Peerless Price (Buffalo) and Isaac Bruce (St. Louis).
This spring's NFL Draft also will have receivers the Ravens can draft with their first-round pick probably somewhere in the middle of the draft. The best receivers coming out of college are Michigan State's Charles Rogers, Tennessee's Kelly Washington, Illinois' Brandon Lloyd, Texas' Roy Williams, and Pittsburgh's sensational freshman, Larry Fitzgerald, if he decides to declare for the draft.
Taylor, who is in his third year out of Florida, caught five passes for 83 yards, but dropped plenty of catchable balls. Johnson had no receptions. When Billick first arrived in Baltimore, he called the Ravens' mediocre receivers "a trash heap." This collection of receivers makes that look good. The Ravens receiving corps is one of the reasons why the team has the worst passing offense in the league.
"It's tough, you can go up to a player after he drops a ball and say, 'Son, you've got to catch that pass, and he's going to look at you and go, Oh, and they pay you the big bucks for that, do they?' You focus on the fundamentals. You do all repetitious things to get them to work past whatever it is that they're dropping the ball. Or, you decide they are not capable of catching the ball and at which point in the offseason you go address that."
Out of the backfield
Ravens running back Jamal Lewis was the Ravens' best receiver yesterday. Lewis, who accounted for 156 total yards, caught four passes for 108 yards and one touchdown.
Lewis' 108 receiving yards was a career high, including a 77-yard touchdown reception the longest reception of his career. On the touchdown, Lewis came out of the backfield to the right flat. Quarterback Jeff Blake's pass went perhaps 3 yards in the air and Lewis did the rest, faking out Saints safety Jay Bellamy on the right sideline on his way to the end zone.
However, as the Ravens primary ballcarrier, Lewis, who had rushed for 1,044 yards coming into the game, lost two fumbles and gained just 48 yards on 17 carries.
"I just had a jinxed day," Lewis said. "I had a bad day carrying the ball and put the defense in an awkward position, bad field position and just tried to make a stop, and New Orleans converted on both of them."
Seven fumbles
With his two-fumble performance yesterday, Lewis now has seven fumbles on the season and the Ravens have lost all seven.
Lewis, who sat out all of last season with a torn left ACL, said he has been working on his ballhandling and ballcarrying this season. Coming into yesterday's game, Lewis was the AFC's fifth-leading rusher with 1,044 yards.
Billick said there's not much he can do about Lewis fumbling the ball.
"It's like a cop pulling a gun on a jaywalker," Billick said. "Are you going to use it? Now what am I going to do? Threaten Jamal and say he's not going to play. That's silly. He doesn't want to fumble. It hadn't shown up for a while, it showed up today."

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