From Tuesday's Sun

Ravens' key trio sidelined on offense

Team prepares to play Eagles without Ogden, J. Lewis, Heap



October 25, 2004|By Staff | Staff,SPECIAL TO BALTIMORESUN.COM

Ravens coach Brian Billick probably couldn't circle the wagons even if he wanted to do so. With how the season has played out in terms of injuries, one of the wagons would run over somebody.

A day after Sunday's 20-6 win over the Buffalo Bills, the Ravens are preparing to go without all three of their Pro Bowl players on offense when they face the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.

Left tackle Jonathan Ogden, the latest fallen star who pulled his left hamstring in the fourth quarter Sunday, walked around with a limp and had a 6-foot crutch propped against his locker.

Although Billick said the team would wait until Wednesday before declaring Ogden's status, he indicated the Ravens were planning to go without Ogden, injured tight end Todd Heap and suspended running back Jamal Lewis.

"For us to be without three Pro Bowlers - that's the biggest challenge for this team right now," Billick said. "We are not configured the way we'd hope we could be going into this point of the season. Our job is to adapt to it because I don't think they'll allow us to postpone it."

A season-long run on injuries has yet to take a toll on the Ravens (4-2), who are a game back of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North. There have been 23 starts lost to injury this season: Heap (four), Ogden (one), outside linebacker Peter Boulware (six), center Mike Flynn (six), nose tackle Kelly Gregg (two) and receiver Travis Taylor (four).

In addition to Ogden, two of the Ravens' other offensive tackles, Orlando Brown and Ethan Brooks, each broke fingers Sunday and might have to play with casts. Brown said he could continue to start at right tackle, and Billick indicated that Brooks filling in for Ogden would be "the most likely scenario."

"Someone around here is a jinx," Brooks said of the injuries. "We just haven't figured out who yet."

Another question surrounding the Ravens is the condition of Heap.

The two-time Pro Bowl tight end has been sidelined the past four games with a sprained right ankle. He has run the past two weeks but has yet to practice.

"I'm at the point right now where I'll just wait and see when Todd shows up," Billick said. "Ankles are a funny deal. Structurally it is sound. We know that it's nothing more than what it is: a bad ankle sprain. He will fight through it, and hopefully he'll be able to help us."

The Ravens will need all the help and firepower they can get against the Eagles, the second highest-scoring team in the NFL (28.5 points a game).

Without Heap and Lewis, who served the first of his two-game suspension from the NFL, the Ravens stalled offensively against the Bills. They managed 160 yards of total offense, with just 17 in the second half.

The Ravens' offense has dropped to 31st in the 32-team NFL (248.7 yards per game), with only the Detroit Lions (243.5) averaging fewer yards.

The Ravens have been fortunate that their defense has picked up the scoring slack. In fact, their defensive backs have scored more touchdowns (three) than their receivers (two).

"I am frustrated," left guard Edwin Mulitalo said. "We wanted to end the second half like we ended the second half against the Redskins. It's going to be a lot tougher against a capable team like the Eagles."

The Ravens can't afford for Kyle Boller to regress for a third straight game.

The second-year starting quarterback didn't complete a pass in the second half Sunday and finished with fewer than 100 yards passing for the third time in five games, though each was a victory.

"We all have to play better as an offense, and that doesn't mean just him [Boller]," Mulitalo said.

The Ravens will welcome one starter back from injury, as Flynn has been cleared to play after being sidelined all season with a broken collarbone.

But Billick announced Casey Rabach will continue to start at center and Flynn will rotate with right guard Bennie Anderson for about 40 snaps. Billick did not rule out Rabach keeping the starting job once Flynn has fully recovered.

"Casey has played brilliantly the entire season, so Mike's going to have to adapt to how we dole this thing out," Billick said. "Until Mike is ready for a 65-snap game, then we'll discuss that. But we don't have to make that decision yet, so we won't."

Originally published October 25, 2004, 10:02 PM EDT

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