Ravens decide to shuffle their offensive line

Mulitalo back at left guard

Brooks to start at tackle

Rabach is no longer starting

Ravens say Mulitalo having trouble at tackle

September 19, 2002|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

The Ravens' first lineup change to their struggling offense was part homecoming, part eviction.

Shuffling their offensive line during the bye week, the Ravens moved Edwin Mulitalo from right tackle to left guard, benched left guard Casey Rabach and promoted journeyman Ethan Brooks to starting right tackle.

In his first year as a right tackle, Mulitalo wasn't progressing fast enough and became too much of a liability against the pass rush coming off the edge. He returns to left guard, where he formed a powerful tandem with tackle Jonathan Ogden for the past three seasons.

"It's no sweat off my back," Mulitalo said. "I'm back at my old position. It's like putting on old shoes. It feels good."

Ravens officials stressed the switch was based on Mulitalo's troubles adapting to a new position and was not a reflection of Rabach's play.

"[Mulitalo] was struggling there a little bit," offensive line coach Jim Colletto said. "The way his upper body is, he has a hard time using his hands the way a tackle probably should. The move was kind of a relief to him."

The Ravens and Brooks both are hoping this change will lead to stability. The Ravens went through five players at right tackle last year, and Brooks has played for five teams in seven seasons.

Brooks, who has made two career starts, has been out of football for two of the previous three years. He sat out the 1999 season to be with his ill wife, who died two years later from cancer. Last season, Brooks was one of the final cuts by the Denver Broncos.

"It was a roller-coaster ride," said Brooks, who agreed to a one-year deal with the Ravens on Aug. 2. "I was happy as heck when they signed me. Now I've got this opportunity in front of me, so things couldn't be better.

"I came in as a backup tackle. I didn't play last year so my focus was to clean off the rust, just get better every day and fit in where I can. I'm ready for it."

At 305 pounds, Brooks is 42 pounds lighter than Mulitalo and gives the Ravens a different look at right tackle. Brooks is quicker and has better footwork, which is a big plus when going against speed rushers.

"It seems like in this day and age, the [defensive] guys they're putting out on the edge are so darn fast that the better athletic guys better be hanging out there at tackle," Colletto said.

Said coach Brian Billick: "Ethan Brooks has been with us long enough and improved to the point where we feel like we're putting the best people we can at the best spots."

Rabach, the Ravens' third-round pick in the 2001 draft, seemed taken aback over the decision.

"I was told that it's not a demotion," Rabach said. "They're just trying to do new things. This move here hopefully will make the line better all together.

"I'm still going to be out there busting my butt to get back into that starting position. We'll see what happens the next couple of weeks."

Although Rabach appeared to struggle physically at times, the Ravens are far from giving up on him.

"He's going to be a starter in this league," Colletto said. "When and how soon, that remains to be seen. But he didn't do anything in the first two games that would warrant him not playing."

By taking out the more athletic Rabach, the Ravens are going with a bulky guard combination of Mulitalo and Bennie Anderson.

"I'm a little piece of cheese between two big hams," center Mike Flynn said.

Flynn couldn't allow Mulitalo to return without taking some flak.

"I said, `It's the Prodigal Son returns,' " Flynn said. "Every play we ran, I explained it to him and walked through it like he was a little kid just to bust his chops a little bit."

But there have been few light moments on offense these days. Ranked 30th in the league, the Ravens' offense is searching for answers.

That futility played a factor in the winless Ravens scrapping the Mulitalo experiment just two weeks into the regular season.

"I think it's a good move back [for Mulitalo]," quarterback Chris Redman said. "Edwin would have been a good tackle, too. It just takes some time. But obviously we don't have that much time. We've got to get going right now."

Line changes A look at how the Ravens' offensive line has changed from the Super Bowl season to now (positions listed in order of left tackle, left guard, center, right guard, right tackle):

'00....Start '02....Now

Ogden...Ogden...Ogden

Mulitalo...Rabach...Mulitalo

Mitchell...Flynn...Flynn

Flynn...Anderson...Anderson

Swayne...Mulitalo...Brooks

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