Ravens' backup offensive linemen aware of the pressure

Minus Rabach, Brooks, inexperienced group struggles against Falcons

Ravens

August 15, 2005|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA - In limited action, the Ravens' starting offensive line knocked around Atlanta Falcons defenders. In doing so with relative ease, the unit may have knocked out questions about its collective advanced age.

The Ravens bullied the Falcons through the first 20 minutes of Saturday night's 16-3 NFL preseason loss, paving the way for backup running back Chester Taylor's 55 yards on eight carries. Four of the five linemen are at least 30, but you could not tell that against the Falcons.

There were gaping holes through the Falcons' rush defense, which finished eighth last season, but the prevailing sentiment afterward was not one of joy. Attribute that to the backups, a strength of the team the previous three seasons with Casey Rabach and Ethan Brooks, but a weakness Saturday night.

Assignments were missed on blitzes, and the Ravens' second and third units failed to score.

"They brought a lot of dogs and blitzes, and when those things are picked up, it's just a matter of communication," left guard Edwin Mulitalo said. "We're throwing these guys together and are expecting them to handle a lot of things, and they haven't played together that long. But that's not an excuse. From what I saw, they have to clean those up. They came out and played physical, ran the ball well, too, but communication-wise, clean that up. And that goes for all of us, too."

Rabach and Brooks signed free-agent contracts during the offseason with the Washington Redskins and New York Jets, respectively. Combined, the duo started 46 games the past three seasons, taking over primarily because of injury.

Brooks played both tackle positions and Rabach was the top backup at all three interior line spots, remaining the starting center last season even when Mike Flynn (collarbone injury in the preseason) was healthy enough to play.

But that collective experience is gone, replaced by five backups who have no combined starts.

So how can tackles Tony Pashos and Adam Terry, guards Marques Ogden and Brian Rimpf and center Thatcher Szalay keep the Ravens from going into a panic if a starter goes down? "We work our butts off," Pashos said.

"Those guys were great players, but we're also guys that have a desire to be good, to be great. Yeah, we lost those two, but we got plenty of guys to reload."

Pashos, in particular, has positioned himself to get playing time this season. In his third season out of Illinois, the former fifth-round draft pick lost 50 pounds and dropped his body fat 8 percent this offseason.

Replacing right tackle Orlando Brown in the second quarter, Pashos showed a degree of newfound nimbleness in his play against the Falcons.

"This was one of the first offseasons I've had completely for myself," Pashos said. "The one before that, I was in NFL Europe. The one before that, I was training for the combine, so I really couldn't take the drastic measures that I wanted to. I went at it 110 percent, and didn't do nothing but work out."

Terry, meanwhile, is being shuttled between left and right tackle. The Ravens drafted Terry in the second round in April and see him splitting time with Brown later in the season.

His first action as a professional against the Falcons showcased the expected - he looked more comfortable on the left side in the second and third quarters than on the right in the fourth.

"I've never really been on that side of the line," said Terry, who had a block on a 34-yard run by Tellis Redmon in the third quarter. "In five years of college, I learned how to pass-set with my left stance, and going into my right stance, it's a little more difficult. I'm working as hard as I can on it. I'll get there."

The Ravens can only hope that attitude carries over to his linemates. Backup quarterback Anthony Wright was sacked once, pressured into an intentional grounding and had a pass batted down.

"We played good as a unit, just not great," Pashos said. "There is still room for improvement. This is our first live game together."

NOTE: The Ravens have canceled today's practice. The team will return to the field tomorrow at 1:30 p.m.

Next for Ravens

Preseason matchup: Philadelphia Eagles vs. Ravens

Site, when: M&T Bank Stadium, Saturday, 8 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 45, Comcast SportsNet/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

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