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Baltimore Ravens

Downfield problem: Marc Trestman, Ravens looking for ways to develop deep passing game

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) hangs his head after not making a first down against the Denver Broncos, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015, in Denver.

SAN JOSE, CALIF. — As the Ravens finished up practice on a field adjacent to Spartan Stadium on Wednesday, Breshad Perriman stood off to the side, leaning against a blocking sled. It's becoming an all-too-familiar sight for the Ravens, who desperately need the rookie's speed and big-play ability, and for Perriman, the first-round pick who badly wants to be on the field.

Perriman hasn't practiced since he hurt his knee on July 30 and there has been no indication that his return is imminent. He was on the field pregame Sunday, but his activity level was limited to catching footballs and simulating routes. He's certainly not expected to play Sunday against the Oakland Raiders and the next few games beyond that — including Sept. 27 against the Cincinnati Bengals and Oct. 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers — are in question, too.

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The Ravens understand that immediate help for a passing game that floundered badly during a 19-13 loss to the Denver Broncos last Sunday isn't on the horizon. It's up to them to make do with what they have, and players and coaches insist they have more than enough to be an explosive offensive team.

"I can understand the frustration. Even some of the offensive players ourselves, we're leading the protests of having a better offense," Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. said Thursday. "I got my pitchfork, too, saying that we need to be better. I understand that. We're right there side by side with the fans. We understand their frustration."

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Against the Broncos, the Ravens had just 100 passing yards, the fewest in the league, and only 173 yards of total offense. They were the only team in the NFL last week to fail to register 200 yards. The performance spurred a torrent of criticism, much of it directed at new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman, who took accountability Thursday for his unit's subpar outing.

"I think that none of us had our best day," Trestman said following the Ravens' practice at San Jose State. "We've all taken accountability for that. That certainly starts with me. I think it's just going back to work and continuing to prepare and do the things schematically that we think we can do to help us get better. That's what we'll do."

Trestman certainly didn't appear discouraged. Asked Thursday about being back on the West Coast, where he had a lot of success as an assistant for the San Francisco 49ers and Raiders, Trestman joked that he hasn't had time to enjoy it.

"I've been locked up in a hotel trying to find ways to throw the ball down the field more," he quipped.

Trestman's comments echoed what has been said in previous days by Joe Flacco and Smith, and others on the offensive side of the ball. Accountability certainly hasn't been an issue. The reality is that the Ravens need everybody on offense to play much better.

"I'm very confident that we'll do that because of the type of men we have and the talent we have and the coaches that we have. And that's what you do; you've go to work," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "You're not a finished product, ever — in life or football. We have a lot of work to do on that side of the ball based on the way we played on Sunday, but there are a lot of things that tell me that we have what it takes. I can go into the list if you want, but I think those things are pretty apparent, and I'm confident on building on the reps that we've had — and the talent that we have and the character that we have — that we'll be a very good offense this year."

It would be a simple fix if it was just a matter of Trestman calling for more deep shots, something Flacco said the team needed to do earlier in the week, and something with which Trestman agrees. Flacco, one of the league's most prolific deep-ball throwers, had just one attempt over 20 yards against Denver, a 22-yard completion to Marlon Brown.

A successful passing game starts with the running game being more productive on first and second downs, preventing the Ravens from navigating too many third-and-longs where defenses know exactly what's coming. The offensive line, specifically the tackles — Eugene Monroe, James Hurst and Rick Wagner all struggled mightily Sunday — have to give Flacco more time to look downfield.

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Flacco, himself, has to make better decisions, and the receivers need to get open down the field. All were issues against the Broncos.

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"I think one of the things that people have to take a step back and look at, if you look at how the two offenses performed Sunday, they both performed less than expected," said Smith, who dropped a potential game-winning touchdown catch late in the fourth quarter. "They were mirror offenses. They were the exact same offenses and yet they both had the exact same results. It was very tough to move the ball on both defenses. Offensively, we just have to play better. That's just a fact. I've got to come up with that catch. We've got to do some other things better."

It's no secret that the Ravens lack a wide receiver with elite speed with Perriman out. The rookie's presence alone would open up some things on the outside. But Flacco and Trestman insist that there are other things the offense can do to make plays downfield.

"You can do it with deep crossing routes, back-shoulder throws and you can throw the ball deep," Trestman said. "I mean, we threw the ball deep last week to Marlon, he made a nice back-shoulder catch, but he was running a deep ball and Joe stopped him with the throw. The defender was playing a high-shoulder technique and he stopped him with the throw. It was a great play. We've just got to do more of that. We've got to give our guys more opportunities, and Joe said it [Wednesday] — he's right. We've got to do that. That starts with me."

It also needs to start Sunday.

"It was the first game. Everything is going to be fine," Brown vowed. "This is a new week. I feel we're practicing hard, preparing a lot and getting better, and on Sunday, we'll just see what happens. I'm very confident. We work hard every day since [organized team activities] and training camp. Now, it's just time to go out there on Sunday and let it show."

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jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jeffzrebiecsun


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