Young line sets high standards

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

But unit needs work on limiting penalties and protecting QB

Ravens 22 Rams 3

Ravens Gameday

October 15, 2007|By Edward Lee and Don Markus | Edward Lee and Don Markus,SUN REPORTERS

Left guard Jason Brown is the first to say that the Ravens' offensive line is a work in progress.

With a unit composed of three rookies (tackles Jared Gaither and Marshal Yanda and right guard Ben Grubbs), a 2006 second-round draft pick (center Chris Chester) and a third-year player (Brown), that would seem to be understood, but the linemen have high expectations of themselves.

"We're far from being a finished product, but we're still improving little by little every week, and that's a good thing," the left guard said. "We've just got to keep working at it."

That much was apparent after yesterday's 22-3 defeat of the St. Louis Rams at M&T Bank Stadium. Despite a performance that included contributing to the team's first offensive touchdown in six quarters, the offensive line has a few things to address this week.

Although sacks are indicative of a teamwide effort in pass protection, quarterback Kyle Boller was pressured six times, sacked twice and lost a fumble when defensive end Leonard Little beat Gaither.

After carrying six times for 26 yards in the first quarter, running back Willis McGahee was limited to 35 yards on 19 carries the rest of the game. And the line was responsible for four penalties, including a holding call on Chester that wiped out a third-quarter touchdown run by McGahee.

Chester and Brown - who was flagged twice for a false start in the first quarter - said they would work harder to cut out those types of mistakes. The linemen and coach Brian Billick said the running lanes began to close because of adjustments the Rams' defense made to contain McGahee.

"It got a little dicey in there," Billick said. "[St. Louis] puts eight or nine guys up there probably as much as we've ever played, and beyond physically, you mentally have to sort through it."

With the status of three Week 1 starters in tackles Jonathan Ogden (hyperextended toe) and Adam Terry (sprained ankle) and center Mike Flynn (sprained knee) still unclear for Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills, Chester said the linemen won't lean on their youth as a crutch.

"I think there's a lot of talent on this group," he said. "I think we can be a very productive offensive line. We just need to keep taking steps and get better each week."

Heap in, then out

Todd Heap's day ended early.

The tight end returned to the field for the first time since straining his hamstring two weeks ago against the Cleveland Browns, but he tweaked the hamstring while running a route in the first quarter and didn't return.

"I went back in once on a blocking play and a run play, but it was still pretty tight," Heap said. "I tried to go back out a couple times because it wasn't as bad as the first time that it happened in Cleveland, but it just kept grabbing on me."

Rolle's return

After his first game in almost a month, Samari Rolle will think about the interception he almost had instead of the will he displayed.

Rolle, who had not played since Sept. 16 because of an undisclosed illness and complications from medication to treat the ailment, didn't start but lined up as a nickel back when the Rams went to a three wide-receiver alignment.

"I feel it in my body," he said. "The hard part is I've only practiced for two days in almost a month. So I just need to get my body back in shape and keep trying to keep up with my teammates."

Rolle finished with two tackles but said he'll replay the potential interception that fell through his hands late in the fourth quarter.

"That's going to be with me all night," he said. "I'm probably going to hear about it, but that'll be all right."

Sacking a slump

Linebacker Terrell Suggs, who averaged 10 sacks a year in his first four NFL seasons, got his first sack of the 2007 season yesterday. It came with 17 seconds left in the first half.

"Trevor [Pryce] has been telling me this whole season they come in bunches," Suggs said, referring to the Ravens' sidelined defensive end. "Once I got the first one off my shoulders, then it's going two, then it goes to three, then it starts to snowball. It feels good to get it off me, but I could have had a lot more out there today."

Earlier in the game, Suggs sacked Rams quarterback Gus Frerotte, but it was negated by a false-start penalty.

Suggs showed his respect for Frerotte despite the veteran's tough day that included four sacks and five interceptions.

"He took it like a man. He showed tremendous heart out there," Suggs said. "He just kept coming back for more."

Figurs a factor

Rookie Yamon Figurs, who has returned one punt for a touchdown this season and has had several other long kickoff and punt returns, took a kickoff after the Rams' field goal 54 yards to the St. Louis 49.

Figurs, who only returned punts last week in San Francisco after injuring his shoulder in the Week 4 loss to the Cleveland Browns, was happy to be healthy and productive.

"It felt pretty good," said Figurs, who came into the game ranked ninth in kickoff returns and second only to the Chicago Bears' Devin Hester in punt returns. "On the return, their guys went a certain way and it was wide open."

End zone

Besides Flynn, Ogden, Pryce and Terry, the Ravens deactivated tight end Daniel Wilcox (sprained toe), cornerback David Pittman and linebacker Edgar Jones. Rookie Troy Smith was designated the emergency (third) quarterback. ... Yesterday's victory was the 100th in franchise history for the Ravens. "It's great," Billick said. "Unfortunately, I haven't been here for all 100, but I'll go along with it. It's a great milestone and when you figure the time frame, it's something for the organization to be very proud of."

edward.lee@baltsun.com don.markus@baltsun.com

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