It's still unclear whether Ravens will use unbalanced line Sunday

December 16, 2010|By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun

The Ravens opened Monday night's game against the Houston Texans with Oniel Cousins at right tackle and Chris Chester at tight end, but whether the offense returns to that formation this Sunday against the New Orleans Saints is a similar mystery.

"You'll have to wait and see," Chester said after Thursday's practice. "It's a week-to-week thing, and the coaches decided that would be a good thing to throw the Texans off. So it's kind of week to week, what we think is best, game plan-wise, against a defense. "

Once an almost weekly staple in the offensive game plan, the unbalanced line did not produce the kind of results in the rushing game one could have envisioned as running backs Ray Rice, Willis McGahee and Le'Ron McClain combined for just 63 yards on 24 carries, an average of 2.6 yards per attempt.

But center Matt Birk said the added muscle up front forces defenses to adjust.

"It just gives the defense a different look," he said. "It's something else they have to prepare for, something that they're not real familiar with. We do it quite a bit, so it's not like we're catching anybody off guard. It's just a different way of getting to certain plays."

Monday's contest also served as Cousins' debut this season at right tackle. The team's third-round pick in 2008, Cousins is listed as the starting right tackle on the unofficial depth chart, while Marshal Yanda has slid inside to right guard.

Chester, who started the first 12 games at right guard and appears to be the odd man out, said he wasn't bothered by the change.

"It still gives me a chance to play quite a bit," he said. "So we'll see what they decide to do this week. I don't imagine much will change, but we'll just have to go out and see."

Coach John Harbaugh declined to elaborate on the reasons behind the movement along the offensive line.

"We're just going to try to keep doing the best we can to get guys out there," he said Wednesday. "We have some good players. What you try to do with players is you try to find a way to put them in a position where they can help you. We don't want to have guys on the team that aren't contributing. There are things we can do better in every part of our team, including the offensive line, so we try to mix and match and move guys around if we have to [in order] to find the right combination to do the things we need to do to be successful."

Mason intends to play

A sore ankle kept Derrick Mason out of his second consecutive practice Thursday, but the wide receiver said he plans to play against New Orleans.

"I'll be all right," Mason said, adding that he sustained the injury on the long pass that he dropped on the offense's first series when the cornerback who was trailing on the play fell on his ankle. "It's still a little tender, but I'm going to try to go tomorrow to see how it feels, just to get my legs going. Rode the bike today, so tomorrow, I'll see how it feels. I know I'll be ready for Sunday. I'm not worried about that."

In addition to Mason, starting tight end Todd Heap (pulled right hamstring), fullback Le'Ron McClain (illness) and free safety Tom Zbikowski (back) did not practice. Heap and Zbikowski sat out for the second straight day.

Linebacker Tavares Gooden (calf) and cornerback Fabian Washington (hamstring) fully participated for the second consecutive day.

Dickson says he can improve

Ed Dickson caught just one pass for seven yards Monday night — a quiet performance for the rookie tight end who played extensively for Heap.

The third-round pick said the showing proved that there is room for improvement.

"I feel like I did a lot of things right, and there's also a lot of things that I can get better at," he said. "The passing game, I'm not used to some of the looks I was getting. I got some help from the quarterback and stuff like that. The experience I get, the more comfortable I'll get."

Koch crowned cornhole champion

Punter Sam Koch captured the team's inaugural cornhole championship, finishing off Joe Flacco Thursday morning in a three-game sweep in the best-of-5 series.

Cornhole, a game in which participants toss beanbags onto a board or through a hole in the board, has been a staple in the team's locker room since the offseason.

Koch, the No. 1 seed, emerged from a field of 12 players. It's unclear what, if anything, Koch earns by winning the championship.

Asked how a punter could be better than the starting quarterback in a game that involves throwing, Koch said, "Here's the thing, Joe can throw it in front of them and behind them. It's up to the receivers to get them. With a punter, I have an inch that I got to hit on my foot. It just comes with the territory."

End zone

The Saints are getting healthier. Two starters, free safety Malcolm Jenkins (ribs) and tight end Jeremy Shockey (groin), were upgraded to full participation after being limited Wednesday. Cornerback Tracy Porter (shoulder) fully participated for the second consecutive day. Starting nose tackle Remi Ayodele (ankle) was upgraded to limited participation after not practicing Wednesday. Left tackle Jermon Bushrod (ankle) and middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma (quad) were limited for the second straight day. Running back Christopher Ivory (hamstring) did not practice after participating on a limited basis on Wednesday. … Cornerback Domonique Foxworth, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on the eve of the team's first full day of training camp, ran sprints on a sideline inside the team's indoor facility.

edward.lee@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun reporter Jamison Hensley contributed to this article.

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