Passing Ravens pursuing a higher grade

Introductions aside, the Ravens want quarterback Tony Banks to get familiar with the new tight end in his offense, Shannon Sharpe, in a four-day passing camp that begins today in Owings Mills.

"It's a matter of Tony getting used to Shannon, and getting an increased feel for Patrick [Johnson], Qadry [Ismail] and Jermaine [Lewis]," coach Brian Billick said.


Among the objectives Billick hopes to reach through the first of two passing camps this summer is a "sixth sense" between the team's incumbent quarterback and its newly signed tight end.

Toward that end, the Ravens will conduct four morning practices for all position players except offensive and defensive linemen, featuring one-on-one and seven-on-seven drills. NFL rules this season allow most rookies to participate in drills starting May16, or earlier if they've already graduated.


That means running back Jamal Lewis, wide receiver Travis Taylor and quarterback Chris Redman - the team's top three draft picks last month, none of whom has graduated - will join the workouts tomorrow. Also participating tomorrow will be free-agent rookie quarterback Dan Robinson of Hawaii.

The Ravens reshaped their offense this off-season with the free-agent additions of Sharpe and backup quarterback Trent Dilfer, and the selection of skill-position players in the draft.

Last year's offense went through growing pains in Billick's first year. The Ravens' pass completion percentage of.495 and their third-down conversion rate of .284 both ranked last in the NFL.

On the flip side, the team's 12.4yards a pass completion - that spells big plays - ranked fourth best in the AFC.

Much of last season's offensive numbers figure to be revised upward this year.

"My excitement in [a recently concluded] minicamp was the learning process has accelerated so high, players know what's going on," Billick said. "This year, everything is more efficient. Everybody has a better idea of what to do."

In 17 practices the Ravens will have held between that minicamp, the two passing camps and a veterans' minicamp in June, Billick has scripted 500snaps for the offense. There will be another 1,000scripted snaps in training camp.

"Between now and the opening of the season, we will have better than a season-and-a-half of work implementing the offense," he said. "The bulk of that last year was just learning the offense.


"We'll be further along the first day of training camp than any day last year. That's where a lot of my optimism comes from."

Once Banks became the starter last season, the Ravens' offense began to take off. He went 6-4 in 10starts, and the Ravens averaged 25.4 points and 322.6 yards in their finalnine games. Over the first seven games, they averaged 13.6 points and 268.4yards.

Although the passing camp is voluntary, players are expected to attend. Because of his trial in Atlanta on charges of double-murder, middle linebacker Ray Lewis will be absent. And fullback Chuck Evans may not participate in drills because he's still rehabilitating after off-season surgery on his ankle and elbow.

"It's voluntary," Billick said of the workouts. "But so is winning, and so is making this football team."