Despite Injuries, O-line Makes A Healthy Debut

August 14, 2009|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,mike.preston@baltsun.com

The Ravens' offensive line has been like a revolving door in training camp because of injuries, but the group opened a lot of holes and protected starting quarterback Joe Flacco well Thursday night.

The Ravens were without starting left tackle Jared Gaither (shoulder), and left guard Ben Grubbs still played despite an ankle injury. The Ravens were also playing rookie Michael Oher, the No. 1 draft pick out of Mississippi who was making his debut at right tackle.

The Ravens' starting offensive unit, though, made easy work of the Washington Redskins in the preseason opener for both teams at M&T Bank Stadium.

The starting unit had two drives in the first half, and it did everything but score as the Ravens had 258 yards of total offense in the first two quarters. The offensive line was aggressive, dominating and athletic.

Michael Oher?

He should open a breakfast house after the way he pancaked Redskins defensive end Renaldo Wynn in the first half. Oher had struggled with pass protection in training camp, but that wasn't a problem Thursday night.

He was extremely quick off the ball and didn't allow any defensive linemen to get into his body. When the Ravens ran the ball, he stayed with his block until the whistle ended the play. At times, he was downright nasty.

No rust

Defensive tackle Kelly Gregg played the first quarter and some of the second, and he played well.

Most importantly, Gregg worked well down the line of scrimmage, and showed no rust from not playing a year ago when he suffered a knee injury.

It was only the first game of the preseason, but it was significant for the Ravens, especially on run defense.

Receiving corps

Reserve receiver Kelley Washington had a 16-yard reception with a little less than four minutes left in the first quarter, and then he jumped up and celebrated as if he had scored the game-winning touchdown in the Super Bowl.

Somebody please remind Mr. Washington that this was only a preseason game, and leave the hotdogging antics on the practice fields in Westminster.

Washington, though, played well. His counterpart, Justin Harper, who had played well in training camp, dropped two balls and showed little acceleration going in and out of routes during his first series in the game, but he picked up the pace later in the second quarter. He rebounded well.

Passing offense

Quarterback Joe Flacco completed nine of 15 passes for 103 yards. The passing offense was pretty vanilla, but that's to be expected for most of the preseason.

But Flacco was accurate most of the night. His best pass came on the Ravens' second drive when he lofted a pass over one Redskins defensive back, and threw two more to Smith down to the Washington 9.

That was a big league throw. And then Smith dropped the ball.

Backup quarterback Troy Smith also had a strong performance. He connected with Harper on a 19-yard touchdown pass.

Several of his early passes were high, but Smith settled down and made some quality throws, some of them on the run.

McGahee returns to form

Ravens running back Willis McGahee looked good. He appears slim, and his cuts were quick and with force and acceleration.

McGahee has had a strong training camp, and continues to work hard. This looks like the McGahee who was one of the best runners in the NFL a couple of years ago.

More blitzing?

The Ravens had some miscommunications in the secondary, but they have some really fast defensive backs.

Cornerbacks Domonique Foxworth and Fabian Washington are two of the team's fastest players, but safeties Haruki Nakamura and Tom Zbikowski flew to the ball.

Second-year inside linebacker Tavares Gooden is known for being able to run sideline to sideline, but he took on a couple of lead blockers last night, scraped off the block and then made the tackle.

One area of improvement needed for the Ravens' defense is getting pressure on the quarterback in passing situations. The Ravens might have to blitz more than defensive coordinator Greg Mattison initially expected.

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