Pieces lining up for Ravens

Colletto praises group but says job's not done

October 04, 2002|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

COLLETTO — Though encouraged by his new-look unit's debut Monday night, offensive line coach Jim Colletto continues to be more cautious than content.

Colletto - whose starting lineup included tackles Jonathan Ogden and Ethan Brooks, guards Edwin Mulitalo and Bennie Anderson and center Mike Flynn in the win over the Denver Broncos - finally has the pieces that should be in place for the rest of the season, barring injury.

It was Brooks' first start with the Ravens and Mulitalo's first game back at left guard in place of Casey Rabach. The changes brought stability to a line that has seen its share of moves at right tackle over the past two seasons (Brooks is the team's sixth since the start of the 2001 training camp).

The Ravens now have four of the five starters in place from a year ago, and a player in Brooks who held his own against Broncos Pro Bowl lineman Trevor Pryce, who was held to just one tackle. The unit will face another challenge Sunday night against a Cleveland Browns defensive line that features three first-round picks.

Colletto, though, dismissed the importance of the line's newfound permanence.

"My comfort zone comes from knowing how good I feel about them, knowing what they are supposed to do and how easy it comes to them," Colletto said. "I'm more comfortable with that now, though I still feel we have a ways to go, improvement-wise. But as far as the personnel stuff goes, I'm not bothered by that."

Neither, apparently were his players. Anderson said when Mulitalo was next to him at right tackle, "We never had that thought in our minds that somebody else might be there the following week."

But after two games in which Mulitalo struggled with a difficult position change, he looked at home next to Ogden Monday.

"I liked what I saw the other night," Ravens coach Brian Billick said.

The Ravens allowed just one sack and only a handful of pressures on quarterback Chris Redman, while creating enough room for Jamal Lewis to rush for 78 yards.

"They played real hard, and they've done that all year long," Colletto said. "We've made some errors like all linemen do, but I think our pass protection improved a bit. And Ethan did OK his first time out, which was a plus. The only thing I was discouraged in is that we have to do better on third-and-1 [the Ravens failed to convert two in the second half]. ...

"Edwin, Mike and J.O. have been playing together a long time. And Bennie's been there for a year. Once Ethan gets comfortable, he'll know what's going on. We're not the most talkative group. They tend to rely on the center to do a lot of it. I think the thing we have to get better at is getting all of them involved.

"Linemen don't like to put themselves in the spot and make a call. The center is supposed to bail them out all the time. I'm trying to get them to where they anticipate what is going to happen."

Now, besides the increased communication Colletto is asking, the only question surrounding the offensive line is whether Brooks can build off his performance against Pryce.

Brooks, 30, who was out of football last year, on Sunday will face veteran end Kenard Lang, who has two sacks this season. After earning first-team status for the first time in his career, Brooks has lots of confidence, as well as his teammates' belief in him.

"I feel good about it. I think they feel good about it," Brooks said. "We all get along. I feel like I fit in there, like the right piece of the puzzle.

"It's only been one game in there starting with those guys, but it feels like it's been longer than that."

Said Flynn on the line's play, "Continuity is always good."

As is depth, which, along with stability, the line now has.

"Two things have happened. One, this is the group we are going to play with," Colletto said. "The other thing is we have probably as good a backup at three places that you are going to find in the NFL in Casey Rabach, who can play center and both guards. And that is comforting.

"Jason Thomas can play both tackles. Plus, the two inactive guys we have now in Mike Collins and Damion Cook, if something were to happen and one of those guys had to play, I'm fairly comfortable they can go in and function well."

NOTES: Tight end John Jones (chest) was limited in practice yesterday. Terry Jones (hand) and Todd Heap (thigh) practiced. Linebacker J.R. Johnson (chest) is questionable for Sunday, but he practiced yesterday. ... Ravens owner Art Modell and team president David Modell will not attend Sunday's game in Cleveland. The Modells have not attended a Ravens-Browns game in Cleveland since the Browns rejoined the league in 1999. ... Browns center Dave Wohlabaugh may return to the starting lineup Sunday night after missing the past three games with a broken hand.

Next for Ravens

Opponent:Cleveland Browns

Site:Cleveland Browns Stadium

When:Sunday, 8:30 p.m.

TV/Radio:Ch. 13, ESPN/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

Line:Browns by 6 1/2

On SunSpot:For more Ravens coverage, visit sunspot.net/ravens

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