Gaither's ankle raises questions for Ravens

Cousins could fill in vs. Colts if starting left tackle can't play

January 15, 2010|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | kevin.vanvalkenburg@baltsun.com

Ravens left tackle Jared Gaither was with the offensive line when it began warm-up drills Thursday, but his movements were slow and careful as he tried not to put too much pressure on his right ankle. He did not look like a player who was two days away from playing the biggest game of the year.

After practice, Gaither wasn't interested in discussing how his ankle felt, or whether he'll be able to play Saturday against the Colts.

"I feel awesome, how about that?" Gaither said over his shoulder, heavy on the sarcasm, before hobbling to the training room and declining to comment further.

If he can't play, it could put the Ravens in a bit of a bind in pass protection, considering that Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are two of the best defensive ends in football and are expected to be fully healthy and rested for the first time this season.

Oniel Cousins will likely start in Gaither's spot if Gaither can't play, although the Ravens could use Marshal Yanda at right tackle and move Chris Chester back into the starting lineup at left guard. But it will most likely be Cousins, a 6-foot-4, 315-pound second-year tackle from Texas-El Paso who has started two games this season. Cousins is a strong run blocker, but he had some real trouble in pass protection against the Pittsburgh Steelers, his second career start. He gave up back-to-back sacks to linebacker LaMarr Woodley, was flagged for a false start and was nailed with a 15-yard personal foul for hitting Woodley after a play - a penalty that helped push the Ravens out of field-goal range in the fourth quarter in a 23-20 loss at Heinz Field.

"I've learned a lot," Cousins said. "Every week, all of us prepare as if we're starting the game. If Gaither can't go, or Michael [Oher] can't go, I'll be ready. You never know when you're going to be the next man up."

Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said Cousins took far too much of the blame for what happened against the Steelers, and if he's thrown into a similar situation, the Ravens will handle it better.

"Oniel is a really good football player," Cameron said. "That thing has really taken on a life of its own. That was a function of our entire unit. That was not him. He was the same guy blocking all those runs. There was three plays where he was about 50 percent of the issue. We're not blocking guys like that one-on-one. I don't care who the tackles are. So he learned a lot. He's becoming a good football player. He's a hard worker, he gives us depth and youth, and he's an outstanding run blocker. It's like all young tackles, though. They have to learn how to pass-protect in this league against the great players."

Cousins said the personal foul against Woodley was a simple case of his not hearing the whistle and believing the play was still going.

"It was just one of them deals where you're playing the game," Cousins said. "I don't listen for the whistle, I just try to finish longer than my man. Unfortunately the whistle blew and the crowd was so loud I didn't hear it. It would happen again."

Eye on Clark
The Ravens struggled at times in the second half of the season against tight ends. The Green Bay Packers' Jermichael Finley had 79 yards and two touchdowns against the Ravens, and the Oakland Raiders' Zach Miller scored a 12-yard touchdown against them.

But the Ravens have kept the Colts' Dallas Clark in check for the most part. In the past four meetings, Clark has been limited to six catches for 76 yards (19 receiving yards per game). His only touchdown was earlier this season, when he made a one-handed grab in the end zone. Cornerback Domonique Foxworth said a miscommunication between him and safety Ed Reed on that play allowed Clark to get open.

"Dallas Clark is not only a great athlete and a great football player, he's one of those guys that plays hard every snap," Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. "When you have that combination, that's a guy you've got to really deal with."

Lewis honored
Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was named All-Pro for the seventh time on Thursday. Lewis, 34, was the only Raven chosen.

Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson, who rushed for 2,006 yards, was the only unanimous choice for the All-Pro team.

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, who last week was named the NFL's Most Valuable Player, was named to the All-Pro team for the fifth time. The team is chosen by a panel of 50 sportswriters from across the nation.

Four Minnesota Vikings - running back Adrian Peterson, defensive end Jared Allen, guard Steve Hutchinson and defensive tackle Kevin Williams - were chosen, the most from any team. The Colts followed with three - Clark, defensive end Freeney and Manning.

Injury update
Every Raven was listed on Thursday's injury report as participating fully. That includes Gaither, who sat out Wednesday with an ankle injury.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.