Ravens' remedy: hard work, help at QB

Offensive line forced to address familiar problems

September 14, 2005|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

If there is even the slightest bit of worry about the play of his unit, Ravens offensive line coach Chris Foerster isn't letting on.

Win, lose or draw, Foerster's stone-faced analysis - for those looking for specifics but are not coaches - will remain the same.

"It's hard for me to go into details and say, `Such and such played well,'" Foerster said. "We're part of the offense. The offense needs to score more points, so we have to look and see what our job could be to do that better. We'll continue to work hard, get our fundamentals to get our guys working together."

Foerster repeated the part about working hard to get better three times. It is his standard answer for the line play, no matter if the unit is part of an offense that gave up three sacks and rushed for 77 total yards against the Indianapolis Colts, or if the team gives up no sacks and rushes for more than 200 yards, as it could do Sunday against the Tennessee Titans.

The Ravens' offensive line struggled during the preseason with pass-blocking and did not fare much better against the Colts. Quarterback Kyle Boller, under a heavy rush in the third quarter, was knocked out of the game and will miss at least a week with an injured toe.

It was the culmination of a coming-out party for the improved Colts defense, as well as a continuation of a yearly issue for the Ravens' offensive line.

"Our job is to protect the quarterback," left guard Edwin Mulitalo said. "Obviously, Kyle got hurt, so we take that personally. Hopefully, we can correct those things that we did to put us behind [in the game]. A lot of things we did, we did to ourselves."

Foerster replaced former offensive line coach Jim Colletto this year but inherits a unit that features four starters over the age of 30.

Against the Colts' younger and faster defensive line, the Ravens looked a step slow, even though they kept tight ends or running backs in to help with the pass-blocking on many attempts.

Even worse, it was not Dwight Freeney, last year's NFL sack leader, doing the damage, but defensive tackle Larry Tripplett, who finished with two sacks and also burst through the middle of the Ravens' line two other times.

"They were doubling and tripling Dwight, and that gives me an opportunity," Tripplett said.

Things should get easier for the Ravens this week facing a Titans team that features only one acclaimed player in tackle Albert Haynesworth. Tennessee gave up 206 rushing yards to the Pittsburgh Steelers in a 34-7 loss Sunday.

The Ravens, meanwhile, had runs of 9 and 25 yards from Jamal Lewis in the first quarter but eventually had to abandon the run after falling behind by 17 points in the third quarter.

Running the ball successfully tends to cure many of the Ravens' offensive line woes.

"The nature of the game changed," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "We could have continued later to press that. Our run/pass balance, which we always want to maintain, was very good up until going into the middle of the third quarter. At halftime, I believe it was right at 50/50, give or take a play. That's a balance that we want to maintain.

"But then the game changed, obviously, and the profile changed."

The Ravens finished 19th in sacks per play last year and gave up 35 for the season. But the team averaged 128.9 yards on the ground, ninth in the league.

Mulitalo acknowledges that observers may believe the Ravens to be strong firing off the ball on runs but too big and slow (336 pounds is the average weight for the starters) getting in pass sets. He is not buying that.

"When people say that, I think they are more so saying we are a run team more than a run offensive line," Mulitalo said. "When you look at film for the pass, yeah, sometimes we'll have a breakdown, but it's a collective breakdown. It's the running backs, it's all of us contributing to the failure of some of the things we're trying to do.

"Sometimes we're winning our one-on-one battles. That being said, collectively we've got to step up."

Mulitalo's coach, without going into specifics, agrees.

"Like I said, it's very difficult for me to sit here and say this is good, this is bad," Foerster said. "It's a bottom-line game, and we need to work hard this week to continue to contribute to what our offense needs for us to be successful."

Next for Ravens

Matchup: Ravens (0-1) at Tennessee Titans (0-1)

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/1300 AM, 102.7 FM

Line: Ravens by 4

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