Protection breakdowns disappoint Billick


Offensive line allowed four sacks by Falcons, as trend from '03 continues

Pro Football

August 15, 2004|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

If the Ravens want quarterback Kyle Boller to get into a comfort zone, they'll have to do a better job of protecting him than they did in Thursday's preseason opener.

On his first series, Boller was sacked twice by the Atlanta Falcons and forced to scramble another time. The Ravens seemed to be caught on their heels when the Falcons repeatedly blitzed.

"We made some mistakes - some dumb mental errors that put the quarterbacks in some awkward situations - which is a little disappointing," coach Brian Billick said of the Ravens, who allowed a total of four sacks. "I know the things we saw and called. They knew what they were supposed to do."

A high number of sacks - whether it's a breakdown in blocking or the quarterback holding onto the ball too long - has been an ongoing problem for the Ravens. Last season, they allowed 42 sacks on 415 pass attempts, the second-worst ratio in the NFL.

Outside of Thursday's first play (a quick drop by Boller in which no receivers were open), poor blocking ruined the opening series. Beyond that, the Ravens' starters settled down and surrendered just one more sack (which was negated by off-setting penalties).

"I think we worked some kinks out," center Mike Flynn said. "I think we'll be fine. Next week will be a better test. [Philadelphia's] a better team and it'll be interesting to see how we fare."

Approach stays same

Billick said the team's approach toward the season has not changed after learning that running back Jamal Lewis' drug conspiracy trial was set for Nov. 1.

"We'll deal with the circumstances involved in his due process as they arise," Billick said in a statement. "Until then, we'll continue to support Jamal, respect the judicial proceedings, and at the strong suggestion of Jamal's attorneys, not address these matters publicly or with the media."

Thinking inside the box

Matt Cavanaugh's switch from the sideline to the coaches' box gave him a different point of view.

"I found it more beneficial in between series when you can look at some of the pictures and get your thoughts together without having to address everybody who wants to get your attention," said Cavanaugh, the team's offensive coordinator. "That was a big benefit because there is a lot of madness on the sideline."

The preseason opener marked the first time that Cavanaugh wasn't on the field in five seasons with the Ravens. But the move wasn't new to Cavanaugh, who sat in the box as the Chicago Bears' offensive coordinator in 1997 and 1998.

Now, instead of signaling in plays to quarterbacks directly, he has to send them down to quarterbacks-receivers coach David Shaw, who will then relay them to the quarterback.

Abney frustrated

Despite fumbling in the opener, Lamont Brightful appeared to be the lucky one in the return specialist race.

Brightful's chief competition, Derek Abney, is wearing his left arm in a sling, a result of spraining his shoulder in the preseason game. The seventh-round pick said he won't know how much time he will miss until the swelling goes down.

"It's very frustrating," said Abney, a 5-foot-9, 180-pound returner who has been injured twice in camp after missing just one game in his four-year career at Kentucky. "Being a smaller guy, [whether you can hold up physically] is the one question they have about you. It's just a bad turn of events."

Abney averaged 7.5 yards on two punt returns and ran back his only kickoff 17 yards. Brightful averaged 3.5 yards on two punt returns.

End zone

With heavy rain expected in the area, the Ravens moved their afternoon practice to their new indoor facility in Owings Mills. It's their second workout in the field house. ... Offensive lineman Casey Rabach (sprained left medial collateral ligament) and tight end Brett Pierce (sprained left ankle) were injured in the morning practice and are considered day-to-day.

Camp update

Thumbs up: T.J. Slaughter laid a pulverizing hit on fullback Ovie Mughelli. ... Lance Frazier knocked away a pass intended for Kareem Kelly on a slant in the end zone. ... Dave Revill knocked away a pass in one-on-one coverage with Todd Heap.

Thumbs down: Will Demps dropped an interception during seven-on-seven drills, then dropped to the ground and did 10 pushups. ... The offensive line allowed Kyle Boller to be sacked twice during full-team drills.

Quotable: "He has done well. I know who he is, and that is a good thing." - Ravens coach Brian Billick on Frazier

Injuries: OLB Peter Boulware (knee), QB Anthony Wright (shoulder), RB B.J. Sams (thumb), TE Trent Smith (leg), CB Fred Weary (quadriceps), WR Travis Taylor (groin), return specialist Derek Abney (shoulder) and T Matt Zielinski (knee) did not practice. G Casey Rabach hurt his knee after practice and is day-to-day. CB Chris McAlister (contract dispute) is not in attendance.

Today's schedule: No practice.

Countdown to season opener: 28 days.

- Brent Jones

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