Ravens' big guys hatching big plans Offensive line expects turnaround from '95

July 29, 1996|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

This is one time Ravens guard Wally Williams isn't pulling an end-around. His message is just like the path he wants to clear for a runner: straight and to the point.

"We've got five physical guys up front," said Williams, the Ravens' starting right guard. "We don't want to be bothered with fanning out looking for little linebackers to hit on pass protection. We just want to be bullies, knock people around."

It has become apparent in training camp and around the league that most of the Ravens' success depends on their offensive line.

There are questions surrounding the team's running back, quarterback and linebacker situations but very few about an offensive line that is one of the biggest in the NFL.

"Right from the beginning of training camp, they have been getting after people," said head coach Ted Marchibroda. "For the most part, it's a veteran group that should be consistent all the way across."

From left to right, meet the Ravens offensive line: tackle Tony "T-Bone" Jones (6 feet 5, 295 pounds), left guard Jonathan Ogden (6-8, 300), center Steve Everitt (6-5, 290), guard Wally Williams (6-2, 305) and tackle Orlando Brown (6-7, 340), a.k.a. Zeus.

With the exception of Ogden, they have been together the past three seasons, and they have just as much confidence in themselves as does Marchibroda.

"Everyone keeps harping on how good Dallas' offensive line and what they have done," said Williams. "I think we can be just as good. We just don't have all the Pro Bowlers and big name player they have."

Nor Super Bowl rings. Nor conference championships. As a matter of fact, there is a 5-11 season of a year ago that needs to be explained. The former Cleveland Browns averaged 224.6 passing and 92.6 rushing yards per game last season. They gave up 32 sacks and didn't have a running back who gained more than 600 yards.

That's a far cry from 1994, when the Browns went 11-5, averaged 103.6 yards rushing and had a Pro Bowl back, Leroy Hoard, who had 890 yards rushing on 209 attempts. The Browns allowed a league-low and team-record 14 sacks.

"I could name you a million things that just went wrong, but we didn't have a lot of people focused on football after the move was announced," said Everitt.

"We had internal problems, some bad play calling and we spent too much time in a two-point stance when we should have been playing smash-mouth football. We were predictable," said Williams. "We spent too much time communicating, and we became hesitant. When we got the opportunity to knock some people around, I think we played well."

That's why this group is so excited this season. Marchibroda will have a balanced offense, but he won't hesitate to run straight ahead. The Ravens will run the power, isolation, dives and leads like former head coach Bill Belichick ran in Cleveland.

But the Ravens will also run some misdirections and counters which will have linemen pulling, something they seldom did in Cleveland.

"We're going to be a lot more aggressive," said Everitt. "Last season our line kind of sat back and waited for things to happen. We countered instead of attacking and wouldn't have a game plan until the second quarter. Now, we're going to make other teams adjust."

The Ravens have the talent for the offense. Ogden and Williams run as well as any guards. Everitt isn't overpowering, but is a consistent, hard worker. Jones is still one of the better left tackles in the league, with a streak of 103 consecutive games, and Brown may become one of the game's dominant players at his position.

"It's great to hear that teams from around the league are giving us great respect, and it's nice to get it from the press, but recognition is not something you put your hat on," said Everitt. "Publicity doesn't get you to the Super Bowl, and it doesn't get any blocks for you. The potential is there. We just have to get it going again."

There is also potential for failure. Ogden is a rookie trying to make the transition from playing left tackle at UCLA to left guard with the Ravens. He is the fourth consecutive new partner for Jones.

Williams, who played the more finesse-oriented left guard position a season ago, is now on the other side.

"We're progressing very well," said Kirk Ferentz, one of the most respected offensive line coaches in the league. "We've had a few minor setbacks, but we've handled the terminology pretty well from the first day. We're going to give these guys the green light, and we're going to play to our strengths. We don't want to give them a whole lot to think about."

Williams then added: "With this group, the sky is the limit."

Ravens camp

Where: Western Maryland College, Westminster

Practices: Run through Aug. 15. All are free and open to the public. Times are from 9 a.m. to 11: 30 a.m. and 2: 30 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Hotline: 1-888-9RAVENS.

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