Ravens push linear accelerator Offensive linemen get into gear for Steelers, know task at hand

September 04, 1998|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

One day after Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda shuffled his running backs, with veteran Errict Rhett replacing second-year player Jay Graham, the offensive line was trying to regain the concentration that was not evident in the past two preseason games.

The offensive line had not produced, and Graham was basically the fall guy.

"We know what we can do. Now we've got to go do it," right offensive tackle Orlando Brown said. "We've got to get focused again. We've studied our opponent. Now it's time to get going. As a group, we've sat down and talked. It's time to roll. We can't take no for an answer."

The Ravens' first-team offense has been denied any substantial rushing yards in the past two preseason games. After gaining 197 yards against the Chicago Bears and 170 yards against the New York Jets in the first two games, the Ravens combined for 228 yards against the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants, 143 of those by Rhett and the second-team offense.

The offensive line, one of the biggest if not the largest in the NFL, was expected to anchor the offense. But there are doubts because the big, bad, beasty boys aren't getting the job done.

And if the Ravens can't run, quarterback Jim Harbaugh's arm may not be strong enough to carry the entire offense.

"I'm not trying to make excuses, but there are a lot of things you have to take a look at," left offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden said. "We played badly against the Eagles, but we didn't look as bad as some people may have thought against the Giants.

"First of all, we didn't have Eric Green," Ogden said. "We had A. J. Ofodile and he had trouble with Michael Strahan. A lot of people do. He got into our backfield a couple of times and blew things up. In a regular-season game, we would have accounted for him more."

Left guard Wally Williams said: "It was a preseason game and basically you're trying to get certain things accomplished. We weren't game-planning for these guys. There were times when we all wanted to work on stepping left or stepping right. Now the regular season is about to start. Are you asking me if we're going to put forth a good effort on Sunday? My answer is yes."

But the line's ineffectiveness wasn't all about game plans and miscommunications. There were times when the Ravens were physically beaten. The past two games may have been the worst for Brown since the team moved here.

Brown, who had three penalties against the Giants, had missed crucial time in training camp because of a weak ankle, but he wasn't making any excuses.

"I haven't played that well. It's out there for people to see," Brown said. "I'm a little rusty, but that won't be used. I've looked at the film, talked to [offensive line coach Kirk Ferentz] and I know what I have done wrong."

Williams also has not performed up to par. He held out for 24 days of training camp, and has only played in the past two preseason games. Williams now admits to having a sense of urgency for Sunday's game against Pittsburgh.

"I think I have played decently in the last two games," Williams said. "Nothing spectacular. I wanted to work on technique, fundamentals and getting some continuity with my teammates. I've been planning for that opening game for three or four months. It's that time. I said I was going to be ready and I will be."

Pittsburgh was No. 1 in the league against the run last season. The Steelers apparently have a mismatch with veteran All-Pro nose tackle Joel Steed going against second-year center Jeff Mitchell, who has yet to snap a ball in a regular-season game.

"I've been telling him to keep his head about him," Williams said. "At times, it's going to be confusing because Pittsburgh likes to blitz and stunt a lot. But if you keep your poise, the game will eventually come to you."

NOTES: Graham expressed disappointment about his demotion, but said he expects to improve as the season continues. "I don't feel good about it. I've just got to keep on playing hard," he said. "No, I don't like it. What do I have to do? I've got to keep practicing. It's nothing I can debate about."

Reserve defensive tackle Larry Webster (hamstring) practiced for the first time in several weeks. Defensive back Duane Starks (ribs), wide receiver Patrick Johnson (hamstring) and veteran defensive end Keith Washington (knee) did not practice yesterday, but all three are expected to play Sunday.

Williams took snaps at center with the first team, but is expected to start at left guard.

The Ravens signed reserve tight end Ofodile to the regular-season roster and waived rookie free-agent defensive tackle Larry Fitzpatrick. The Ravens may sign Fitzpatrick to their practice squad.

Next for Ravens

Opponent: Pittsburgh Steelers (season opener)

Site: Ravens stadium

When: Sunday, 1: 01 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)

Line: Steelers by 3

Tickets: Sold out

Special section: A look at the Ravens' new offense and a preview of the 1998 NFL season. [Section E]

Pub Date: 9/04/98

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