Ravens: In with old, out with new

Offensive line shaky, but coaches not ready for fresh faces just yet

Ravens

November 16, 2005|By BRENT JONES | BRENT JONES,SUN REPORTER

If the time has come for the Ravens to sacrifice experience for untapped ability along their offensive line, the coaches are not doing so. Not totally anyway.

Brian Rimpf may start Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers at right guard in place of an injured Keydrick Vincent (lower leg), but that does not mean second-round pick Adam Terry or rookie center Jason Brown will be ditching their street clothes on game days anytime soon.

Those players, both of whom could be vying for starting jobs next year, may have to wait until then to show they have the capabilities to do so. Apparently, too much football is left.

"One thing I've always known -- don't evaluate for next year when you're in the middle of a war," Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Fassel said. "You got a battle plan, you go into the battle plan. There are enough things to worry about than, `What about next year with this guy?'"

The Ravens feature an offensive line with four starters -- left tackle Jonathan Ogden, left guard Edwin Mulitalo, center Mike Flynn and right tackle Orlando Brown -- that have started together the better part of the past three seasons. But the line, with all four of those players over 30, seems to have aged overnight and has taken increasing criticism with every mounting loss, especially with the struggles of running back Jamal Lewis.

Lewis has not rushed for 100 yards in a game and is averaging 3.0 yards a carry. As for the passing attack, long a liability in blocking for the line, quarterback Kyle Boller was sacked four times in Sunday's 30-3 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Rimpf, a 2004 seventh-round pick, has played in two games in his career including subbing for Vincent in the fourth quarter Sunday. Once Vincent is healthy, Rimpf will continue to be part of the Ravens' plan, rotating at left guard with Mulitalo. Rimpf does not have the power of Mulitalo but does have a degree of athleticism that may allow more of a pocket for Boller to step up and throw.

Mulitalo/Rimpf will join Brown/Tony Pashos, who have rotated all season. The unusual swapping of linemen has become a staple under Ravens coach Brian Billick.

"Edwin had a lot to deal with in the offseason," Billick said. "He went through the injuries and the rehab, then the ankle injury, the gout and his crisis with his father.

"We may need to get Brian Rimpf in there a little bit to give Edwin a chance to be fresher and impact the game the way that he normally can. We'll do what we can to try and keep that group fresh."

Much of what the Ravens want from Rimpf they were expecting to get from Vincent, an offseason addition from the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Vincent, though, has been fairly innocuous. His athleticism was thought to have been a major upgrade over Bennie Anderson.

"Keydrick has played progressively better with every game," Billick said. "Cincinnati [Nov. 6] was an outstanding game by Keydrick. [Sunday], he did OK. A couple of times he left himself vulnerable and did not play as well as he had the two and three games previous. But with each game up to this week, Keydrick has played better and better, and we've seen some real signs that he's getting better and better with the system, understanding what it is he needs to do."

With the Ravens investing a three-year contract in Vincent, he will almost certainly start next season. Ogden and Flynn are similarly set to return, which leaves Terry as a high draft choice with nowhere to go this season -- and maybe next.

"He's new, he got behind with an injury and he just kind of fell in that spot," Fassel said of Terry. "The other thing is, when you dress seven, you've got to be able to play tackle and guard or guard and center. It falls that way with him. The guy is going to be a good player."

"You'd like to [play Terry], but we're trying to win games and get better."

Notes -- The Ravens purchased basketball uniforms for all 19 Baltimore city public high schools girls' teams. The uniforms were introduced yesterday at Western and include home and away jerseys, shorts and warm-up jackets. ... The Ravens re-signed former Maryland tight end Rob Abiamiri (Mount St. Joseph) to the practice squad. Abiamiri had been with the team in training camp.

brent.jones@baltsun.com

Steelers @Ravens Sunday, 1 p.m., Ch. 13, 1300 AM, 102.7 FM Line: Off the board

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