Ravens must get guard Ben Grubbs healthy — and soon

Patriots, Steelers making strides as NFL season moves into week 6

October 10, 2011|Mike Preston

As the Ravens returned to The Castle Monday, there were questions about the status of certain injured players, but the most important issue facing the team now is the availability of left guard Ben Grubbs.

Grubbs, the team's top draft pick in 2007, has missed the last three games because of a toe injury. There hasn't been this much concern about a foot injury since Pro Bowl left tackle Jonathan Ogden suffered from turf toe in 2007, his last season.

Let's look past any mind games the Ravens may want to play and just list Grubbs as questionable for Sunday's home game against Houston. But Grubbs' presence would improve the play of an offensive line which has struggled this season and seemed to have communication problems as far as handling the pressure of the New York Jets in the last game.

Grubbs is perhaps the Ravens best offensive lineman, certainly the most athletic. He has quick feet and can pull, trap and get out front on tosses and sweeps. With him out of the lineup, the Ravens were limited with backup Andre Gurode.

Because of injuries and other issues through preseason and training camp, the Ravens' starting offensive line has only played one full game together.

A key to playing offensive line is gaining a familiarity with the player next to you, and having all communication problems solved going into each game every week.

Closer look

Because of the Ravens bye Sunday, there was an opportunity to look at other teams, and the Patriots defense might not be as bad as it appears.

New England is allowing 433 yards and 326.6 passing yards a game, worst in the NFL, but a lot of those yards come in the second half because opposing teams have to throw to catch up.

Defensively, New England has gotten better since the season started, and if they can come close to contributing as much as the offense, the NFL better watch up.

It kind of reminds me of the Ravens, but in reverse.

Steelers spring to life

Pittsburgh blew out Tennessee Sunday, 38-17, and some of the critics who said the Steelers had gotten old were silenced.

With Pittsburgh, it was never about getting beat physically, but eliminating the turnovers which had plagued the Steelers in the first four games. The Steelers also signed offensive tackle Max Starks last week, a player they cut in the pre-season because of his weight and heavy contract.

It's amazing how teams such as the Jets and Eagles became infatuated with receivers and cornerbacks in the off season, but failed to beef up their offensive lines.

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome did the same as far as trusting some of the younger offensive linemen, but added help after the first two preseason games when it was clear that starting group was terrible.

Changes with Lewis

I like the way the Ravens are using linebacker Ray Lewis as a blitzer on third and long situations. Because of his relentless style, Lewis has always been a good rusher, and can find the cracks to bring pressure.

Now, if the Ravens were really bold and wanted to make a difference, they might consider inserting another defensive back for Lewis in dime coverage.

But, no one over at The Castle is ready to take that assignment on yet. The Jets have done something similar with former Ravens inside linebacker Bart Scott.

Texans hurting

Fate always plays a hand in winning, and the Ravens were dealt a good one Sunday when Houston outside linebacker Mario Williams had to leave the game with an injured pectoral muscle.

Williams is out for the season, and Houston will be without its two top players, Williams, and receiver Andre Johnson, on Sunday. Williams, a former end who converted to outside linebacker this season, has led Houston in sacks during each of his five years with the club.

None of the Ravens will cheer publicly, but there is a private party in the offensive film room today.

Ngata fine warranted

Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata was fined $15,000 for his second quarter hit on Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez last week, and it was deserved.

There was no doubt that he lowered his head and helmet before plowing into the back of Sanchez. The NFL has gone out of its way to protect quarterbacks and some of the calls are baby-ish, but this fine was consistent with the rules.

It was hard for Ngata to pull back in that situation, and he probably wouldn't have if he could.

Modell deserves spot in hall

Listening to all of these stories about late Oakland owner Al Davis over the weekend made me think about former Cleveland Browns and Ravens owner Art Modell.

Like Davis, Modell was a pioneer and played a major role in the NFL becoming the corporate giant it is today. Like Davis, Modell created a family atmosphere for his players, and spent a lot of time and money helping them address off the field and family issues.

Like Davis, Modell moved his team from one city to another, but Modell has never been forgiven by some of my peers who are voters for the NFL Hall of Fame.

Davis is in the Hall of Fame, and Modell isn't. It's a major injustice, and hopefully that will change soon.

Give Williams credit

When it comes to unheralded Ravens players, names of defensive players — Cory Redding, Cary Williams and Lardarius Webb — keep popping up.

But on the offensive side, I like when Ricky Williams comes in for relief of Ray Rice. Each game, he shows more explosiveness, but now he just has to hold onto the ball.

Gurode did a good job of filling in for Grubbs. Gurode, a center, made the transition seem easy, but it really wasn't.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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