Ravens need to protect themselves at right tackle

Yanda might have earned some starting time

August 13, 2010|By Mike Preston

It might be time for the Ravens to start getting right guard Marshal Yanda some work with the starting unit at right offensive tackle.

It's a position that has no definitive starter at present. The Ravens would like fourth-year player Jared Gaither to occupy the spot, but he has been bothered by back problems throughout training camp.

Only Nostradamus might have predicted his return.

The Ravens were hoping that Oniel Cousins, the third-year project out of Texas-El Paso, would step up and grab the position, but that was hardly the case Thursday night.

Cousins struggled in pass protection and had to get help from tight end Todd Heap in the second quarter. At one point in that quarter, he actually got blocked into Le'Ron McClain while the running back was carrying the ball.

There is still time for Gaither or Cousins to claim the position, but it wouldn't hurt to start getting Yanda ready and insert Chris Chester at right guard.

The Ravens have used this combination before, and it has worked well. The Ravens are fortunate to have this kind of depth and versatility. It might be time to start using it.

Cameron's tricks

Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has come up with a lot of trick plays and formations in his first two seasons with the Ravens, and it looks as if he will give fans some more this year.

The Ravens went with three tight ends on their first possession with a formation that included Heap, Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta. Cameron also had rookie defensive tackle Terrence Cody line up as the fullback in several short-yardage situations.

Overall, it was a pretty decent showing by the first offense for the first night out. The Ravens rolled up 196 yards of total offense in the first half, and Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco completed eight of 12 passes for 120 yards. Flacco threw to eight different receivers.

"We have to protect better than we did in the first half," Cameron said. "We didn't really try to run in the first half. We emphasized throwing down field, and we had some success."

Penalties again a concern

Ravens coach John Harbaugh has had officials at training camp almost every day in an effort to cut down on the number of penalties from a year ago, when the Ravens were first in the NFL in penalty yards.

But in the first eight minutes of the game Thursday night, the Ravens had three penalties, including a false start called on defensive end Terrell Suggs on the first play from scrimmage.

We'll just attribute some of the penalties to this being the first game, but they can't keep happening.

Boldin blocks

After two incompletions earlier in the game, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco finally connected with wide-out Anquan Boldin on a 12-yard reception late in the first quarter.

But even more important than the catch was Boldin's blocking when the Ravens ran the ball. He made good initial contact and stayed with defenders down the field. That doesn't happen a lot in the NFL.

Window dressing

There is speculation that the Ravens might be shopping around receiver Mark Clayton, running back Willis McGahee and/or outside linebacker Antwan Barnes in a possible trade for a cornerback. If that is true, opposing teams got a good look at Barnes and Clayton on Thursday night.

Clayton had a 30-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter and an 18 yard-reception across the middle earlier in the period. Barnes was the Ravens' top pass rusher Thursday night. He was always being pressured or held by the Panthers' offensive linemen.

Lackluster linebackers

The Ravens appeared to have a lot of talent at linebacker in training camp, but it wasn't evident Thursday night. The most disappointing was Jameel McClain, who started opposite Ray Lewis.

On the Panthers' third play, running back DeAngelo Williams ran up the middle for 23 yards as McClain got trucked by fullback Tony Fiammetta. Lewis was out of the game after the first series, but the Ravens' linebackers seemed to have problems getting off blocks, especially at the point of attack.

Backups Dannell Ellerbe and Tavares Gooden were slow getting to the ball.

Appraising Bulger

Marc Bulger appeared uncomfortable, and his timing was off with the receivers. But you can tell Donte' Stallworth has emerged as one of his favorite targets.

Tips for Cody

Cody has a presence in the middle and can occupy space, but he has to become quicker off the ball and develop better lateral movement. As he gets in better shape, he'll become quicker, but he still has a long way to go.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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