Ravens' weak showing against Eagles exposes several holes

General manager Ozzie Newsome needs to be looking for fixes after rough performances on offense

August 11, 2011|By Mike Preston

PHILADELPHIA — — The Ravens need to incorporate a lot of rollout and bootleg passing plays into their offense this season, because that appears to be quarterback Joe Flacco's best chance for survival.

It was the Ravens' first pregame of the season and you don't want to read too much into a glorified scrimmage, but their offensive line had problems against the Philadelphia Eagles Thursday night.

Left tackle Michael Oher got beat several times in pass protection, and was called for an illegal formation once. Right tackle Oniel Cousins was beat several times on both the left and right sides, and was called for illegal procedure once.

Again, it was only the first preseason game, but the biggest weakness of the offense a year ago was the offensive line, and you wanted that group set a tone against the Eagles. You wanted to see improved play from Oher to move into the next level, and enough consistency from Cousins to make him the starting right tackle.

It didn't happen.

But Flacco actually moved well, and stepped up into the pocket several times, something he didn't do last season. To avoid pressure this season, the Ravens will have to move Flacco often in games. If they don't, they won't have much success and Flacco might get hurt.

And if either Flacco or running back Ray Rice gets hurt, at least with the current depth on this team, the Ravens' season might be over.

• If the Ravens were looking to rookie Jah Reid as the answer to their right offensive tackle problems, they might have to search elsewhere, even though Reid got better as the game went on. Reid is more of a project than an immediate solution. His feet looked slow. He failed to get the proper depth in pass protection, especially when the Ravens didn't have a tight end lined up to his side.

Bryan Mattison, filling in at center for the injured Matt Birk, did a nice job of cutting off the inside linebackers on running plays, but couldn't keep his feet in pass protection.

The Ravens should consider signing Casey Rabach, who failed a physical earlier in camp, as the backup center once his shoulder heals in about another week. As for the tackle play, it appears the Ravens will have to keep a running back or tight end around the line of scrimmage to chip block this season, which hurts the passing game.

• I believe general manager Ozzie Newsome has to be on the phone Friday morning trying to make several deals. Rookie receiver Torrey Smith, the second round pick out of Maryland, didn't look comfortable running routes, especially going in and out of breaks or cuts. There was no acceleration, as if he was unsure of where he was running.

Newsome, if the Ravens are serious about being contenders, has to find a legitimate No. 2 receiver, a backup quarterback and a proven offensive tackle or guard. Right guard Marshal Yanda is an option to play tackle, but that still leaves a hole at guard.

• No. 2 tight end Dennis Pitta showed good hands on the short to intermediate routes, but that will only go so far in this league before the opposition takes it away. The Ravens, though, have a better deep threat in tight end Ed Dickson, who sat out the game with a hamstring injury.

Dickson, because of his speed, could become a bigger threat as a slot receiver when the Ravens go to three wide receivers.

• Starting cornerback Chris Carr struggled in the first quarter trying to stick with the Eagles' receivers. If that trend continues, the Ravens might want to look harder at third-year cornerback Cary Williams. Williams has played well in training camp. Not only does he provide tight coverage, but he doesn't hesitate coming up in run support.

• Second-year outside linebacker Sergio Kindle got his first play on defense with 2 minutes and 2 seconds left in the first quarter. Kindle came in as a pass rusher on third-and-six from the Eagles 31.

Kindle actually got pressure on Philadelphia quarterback Vince Young, but Young escaped and went six yards for a first down. Regardless, it was nice to see Kindle on the field and maybe this was a sign of things to come.

• Defensive end/outside linebacker Paul Kruger has quietly had a strong training camp, and he started off the preseason with a strong performance Thursday night. Kruger had constant pressure on the Eagles' quarterbacks, and was relentless pursuing runners across the field.

Kruger, though, had a strong training camp a year ago, and then disappeared from the lineup when the regular season started. He's entering his third season, and maybe this is the year he gets ample playing time. He at least is earning the opportunity.

Kruger had five tackles and one sack at the midway point of the third quarter.

• We only saw a glimpse of Ravens fullback Vonta Leach, but when the Ravens offensive line didn't allow penetration, he put some nice blocks on Philadelphia's inside linebackers.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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