Offensive line takes a step back in preseason game against Washington

August 23, 2014|Mike Preston

After three preseason games, the Ravens are back to square one.

There were questions about the offensive line as training camp opened, and they surfaced again during Saturday night's 23-17 win against the Washington Redskins in preseason game No. 3 at M&T Bank Stadium.

If this was supposed to be the offensive line's showcase performance before the start of the regular season Sept. 7 against the Cincinnati Bengals, then the Ravens have a lot of work to do.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh is unlikely to start the entire unit next week in the final preseason game against the New Orleans Saints, but he has to be concerned.

The Ravens had trouble protecting quarterback Joe Flacco in the first half, and they never established a running game. Yes, it was reminiscent of last season.

It's somewhat strange because the offensive line had performed well in training camp practices, but there were always lingering doubts. The Ravens had an impressive opening drive against the San Francisco 49ers in the first preseason game, but the starters played only one series and the 49ers were without six starters.

The Ravens piled up a lot of yards last week against the Dallas Cowboys, but most came against the second team.

And then came Saturday night.

The Ravens had 179 yards of total offense in the first half, but 74 came on one drive at the end of the half. Twice the Ravens were stopped on fourth-and-short situations.

The first, which occurred on the team's first possession, came when running back Bernard Pierce was stopped on fourth-and-1 at the Washington 49. At least on that play the Ravens were simply outnumbered. Those things happen.

The second failure came at the Washington 11 on fourth-and-1. Rookie running back Lorenzo Taliaferro ran off right guard but was stopped for no gain by defensive end Jarvis Jenkins.

The Ravens got movement at the point of attack by right guard Marshal Yanda and right tackle Rick Wagner, but left guard Kelechi Osemele got beat by Jenkins. It would be easy to single out Osemele because he had a tough night, but tackles Wagner and Eugene Monroe struggled as well.

The Ravens run a West Coast offense predicated on short passes, but the Redskins were still constantly hitting or harassing Flacco. Last season, Flacco was sacked 48 times.

The Ravens thought their offensive line problems were solved because Yanda and Osemele came into training camp healthy, unlike at the end of last season when both were hampered by injuries.

Now the questions about the offensive line will start anew because the unit's success is the key to the 2014 season. That became even more glaring with Pierce leaving the game with a possible concussion in the first half.

The Ravens will be without starting running back Ray Rice who has been suspended for the first two games, and now they might be without Pierce. If the offensive line can play well, the Ravens have the weapons.

Veteran receiver Steve Smith made a couple of big plays Saturday night, including a great diving reception for a 24-yard touchdown. The Ravens have speed on the outside in wide receivers Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones, and two clutch receivers who can work the middle of the field in tight end Dennis Pitta and wideout Marlon Brown. Torrey Smith had four catches for 41 yards in the first half, and Steve Smith had six for 80.

Flacco, when harassed, is elusive and strong enough to make plays even with defensive linemen hanging all over him. But we saw the beating he took last year.

Two weeks ago, the Ravens seemed to have made progress on the offensive line. But after Saturday night as the crowd filed out of the stadium there were doubts again.

Unfortunately, those doubts will be there until the Bengals come to town in the season opener.

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