Having judged stage one of the Edwin Mulitalo experiment a success, Ravens coach Brian Billick said the rookie has earned the chance to make his second start at left guard in Cincinnati on Sunday.
Billick added that he will go with the same offensive line unit that faced the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, with Everett Lindsay starting at right tackle.
Mulitalo, a fourth-round pick who has overtaken veteran James Atkins on the depth chart, took every snap of Sunday's 6-3 loss, against the top-ranked defense in the NFL.
"That is probably as stiff a baptism as any rookie lineman has ever stepped into," Billick said of Mulitalo. "He'll not face as tough a challenge as he had [Sunday]. That's as good a front seven as we've seen. Now that he has gotten through that, he's all the better for it.
"I'm very pleased with the way he stepped up. He was very physical. There's a couple of technique things he'd like to have back. The mental errors were at a minimum."
Mulitalo, 6 feet 3, 328 pounds, felt better about his pass protection work than his run blocking.
"You never know until you play your first game. It's good to have my first game under my belt," said Mulitalo, who got his first action against Kansas City on Oct. 8.
Said left tackle Jonathan Ogden: "It was a tough environment, and [Mulitalo] went in there and handled himself well. He definitely has a bright future."
Evans, Armour status iffy
Billick said he will wait until tomorrow to get a better idea about the availability of fullback Chuck Evans and wide receiver Justin Armour for the Bengals game.
Armour suffered a severely bruised left calf in the first half against Jacksonville and did not return. The calf was heavily wrapped yesterday.
Evans left the game in the second after suffering a contusion to his left triceps.
"Chuck took a heck of a shot to his funny bone. Justin just has a bruised calf, but it's a pretty good bruise," Billick said. "[It depends] how much it will quiet down between now and Wednesday and by game day."
Armour and Evans most likely will be listed as questionable tomorrow.
Lewis critique milder
A day after sharply criticizing wide receiver Jermaine Lewis for dropping several passes and commiting some glaring mental mistakes, Billick toned down his critique of Lewis.
Lewis drew Billick's wrath after jumping offside, then lining up in the wrong spot, forcing quarterback Tony Banks to call a timeout early in the fourth quarter in Jacksonville.
"He doesn't have a lot of confidence right now. He and I sat down and talked [yesterday]. He's as frustrated as anybody," Billick said. "What Jermaine and I have to do is find out what's the best workable formula for him."
Lewis is fighting the worst slump of his four-year career. He has caught 18 passes for 158 yards and has yet to score a touchdown nine games into the season. His longest gain from scrimmage has been 28 yards. Lewis also is averaging just 7.2 yards on 33 punt returns without a score.
Over his previous two seasons, Lewis combined for 83 receptions for 1,434 yards and 12 touchdowns. In his previous three seasons, Lewis averaged 12.3 yards on 36 punt returns. He returned four for touchdowns.
Billick said that he probably will cut down Lewis' multiple responsibilities in his West Coast offense. Lewis has run plays from every receiver position, inside and outside, and has lined up in the backfield.
Lewis has virtually disappeared as a deep threat.
"I have to look at what I'm asking [Lewis] to do at a number of different positions, to see if focusing on a more isolated role might increase his productivity," Billick said. "We'll look at it in any way, shape or form we can to get him back to producing at a level he's capable of producing."
Ofodile might start
Billick said A. J. Ofodile "possibly" could start at tight end this week.
Ofodile replaced Aaron Pierce midway through the second quarter in Jacksonville after Pierce killed a promising drive by losing a fumble at the Jaguars' 20. Pierce did not play for the rest of the game.
"I wanted to get A. J. in more on a rotation basis, and he played very well," Billick said. "Aaron was not 100 percent healthy all [last] week. It was not a knee-jerk response [to bench Pierce for the rest of the game]. It wasn't like he fumbled the ball, let's get him out of there, I don't want to see him again, put him on a bus back to Baltimore."
Whither Darren Perry?
Will Darren Perry play, or will he go?
A week after signing the former Pittsburgh safety to a one-year contract, the Ravens are waiting for Perry to report. Billick is wondering if Perry, who had retired last summer after signing with San Diego, is serious about playing again.
"He has no other options. It's either retire or come here," Billick said.