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Preston: Ravens need more from first-team offense after poor start to preseason

The Ravens defense held the Miami Dolphins to 120 yards and only 12 yards in the second half. (Kevin Richardson / Baltimore Sun video)

It was early in the first quarter. On a fourth-and-2 from the Miami Dolphins' 41-yard line, Ravens coach John Harbaugh called a timeout.

Once play resumed, the Ravens came out in a spread offense and quarterback Ryan Mallett threw a 1-yard pass to running back Danny Woodhead across the middle that was knocked down by linebacker Mike Hull. Even if he had caught the ball, Woodhead would've been short of a first down.

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And that's the best the Ravens could come up with: a 1-yard clearing out pattern.

It's preseason and it would be unfair to be overly concerned at this point, but where is the intermediate- to long- range passing game in the Ravens offense? Two preseason games have been played and the 2017 Ravens offense looks a lot like the 2016 version.

That's not good enough.

Instead of Joe Flacco throwing to tight end Dennis Pitta and fullback Kyle Juszczyk on short pass patterns, it is Mallett throwing to receiver Michael Campanaro or Woodhead. The Ravens run the West Coast offense, which is predicated on short passes and those quick hitters are supposed to be as effective as running plays.

But it hasn't worked for the Ravens since Gary Kubiak vacated the offensive coordinator position and became head coach of the Denver Broncos in 2015.

The Ravens were without Flacco, their starter, on Thursday night and he certainly has a stronger arm and more command of the offense than Mallett, But the Ravens' starting unit only challenged Miami downfield once in the first half, and that pass was intercepted as Mallett tried to throw down the left sideline to rookie receiver Quincy Adeboyejo.

During the offseason, the Ravens stressed they wanted to get another big-play receiver in the offense after the retirement of Steve Smith Sr, and they went out and signed former Kansas City Chiefs receiver Jeremy Maclin. But Maclin has done nothing in the preseason games and hasn't been a big playmaker in practices during training camp.

Veteran Mike Wallace, possibly the fastest receiver on the team, was used mostly on hitches and quick turnarounds against the Dolphins. It's preseason, and of course head coaches will say they don't want to show too much.

Unfortunately for the Ravens, we've heard this story and seen the offense too many times throughout the years. The Ravens can't use the excuse that they don't have speed because they have a lot of it.

Wallace is a burner and so is Breshad Perriman, when he steps on the field. Tight end Larry Donnell has shown the ability to stretch defenses down the middle of the field as well during training camp.

But the speed hasn't been on display. The Ravens are going to need those big plays this season. They have yet to play a regular-season game, but they have a patchwork offensive line that will probably struggle all season. They have adequate but not spectacular running backs, and Flacco is coming off a poor showing from last season.

The Ravens' philosophy of trying to establish a strong running game this year is understandable. They should have one of the best defenses in the NFL and that unit will keep them in almost every game this season.

But they are still going to have to manufacture points and a couple of big plays will be needed. Those days of three or four 70- to 80-yard drives a game are gone. It might be preseason and a time not to show too much, but it's also a time to work on things like pushing the ball downfield more.

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Eventually, they are going to have to do that to win a few games.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

twitter.com/MikePrestonSun

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