Wasn’t the offensive line supposed to be a weak spot for this year’s Ravens?
Well, after 2 games, nothing could be further from the truth. Here at the Nest, we were confident all along in the interior threesome of Marshal Yanda, Jason Brown, and Ben Grubbs. But the solid play from tackles Jared Gaither and Adam Terry has been a pleasant surprise to all of Ravenstown. The loss to retirement of Jonathan Ogden in the offseason left the blind side of rookie QB Joe Flacco in a pretty precarious position as his first real NFL action loomed, but Gaither’s play to date has elicited exactly zero utterances of “boy, we could sure use big ol’ #75 out there again.” On the other side, Terry, a fourth year player out of Syracuse, is so far taking advantage of what many considered to be a make-or-break year for him in B’More. The addition of veteran former Pro Bowler Willie Anderson has been a plus, giving the team some depth at the position, along with bolstering their prowess in jumbo and goalline sets.
Joe Flacco took his first (and only, to date) sack of the season Sunday in the team’s 8th quarter of action. We’re not sayin they are going to challenge the franchise record of 17 sacks allowed, set in 2005, but it’s a hell of a start.
Of course, it hasn’t just been in pass protection where the unit has exceeded expectations. Along with the constantly rotating fresh legs of running backs Willis McGahee, Le’Ron McClain, and Ray Rice, the O-Line has given the Ravens the #2 rushing offense in the NFL so far. They are averaging 190 yards per game, and absolutely pounded the Cincinnati Bengals’ and Cleveland Browns’ defenses into submission in the 4th quarters of those games, sealing the games with long drives, instead of the giving the ball back with the usual 3-and-outs we had become accustomed to.
Even though the games were “only” against the Browns and Bengals, typical not 2 of the stronger defenses in the league, this group still deserves recognition. Those teams knew exactly what they wanted to do to beat the Ravens, and that was to force Joe Flacco to beat them, and get pressure on them when he was forced to throw. Marvin Lewis has a pretty good idea how to pressure quarterbacks. Cleveland features one of the top defensive tackles in the NFL in Shaun Rogers, and he was completely shut down and frustrated.
The pressure gets turned up a bit this week. The boys will be tasked with keeping the zone-blitzing dogs of Dick LeBeau’s 3-4 defense out of the backfield, never an easy task. Even without having Casey Hampton, who will miss the game with an injury, to contend with, they will have their work cut out for them.
Here’s betting they won’t let Joe, Willis, or the rest of us down.