Ravens Notebook: Offensive line holds its own against Patriots

Street Talk Ravens Notebook: Offensive line holds its own against Patriots

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WESTMINSTER — As the Baltimore Ravens’ injury-riddled offensive line squared off with the New England Patriots’ accomplished front seven, quarterback Kyle Boller usually had plenty of time to throw.

Boller was only sacked once out of the 16 times he dropped back for a pass attempt with 11 completions.

"The offensive line did an amazing job of blocking and letting me step my throws," Boller said after the 16-15 preseason victory at Gillette Stadium.

Rarely did the Patriots’ pass rushers burst into the backfield like a bunch of schoolchildren let out for recess.

Allowing a total of three sacks, two occurred in the final minutes when rookie quarterback Joe Flacco was in the game behind an inexperienced line.

"The offensive line held up well," said Ravens coach John Harbaugh, adding that the chip-blocking assistance from the running backs was vital. "The protection was pretty good. I think we got run around maybe one time early, and, after that, we really solidified on the edges."

With starting offensive tackles Jared Gaither and Adam Terry out with sprained ankles, Chad Slaughter and Mike Kracalik started at left and right tackle.

It was Slaughter’s first football game in over a year after sitting out all of last season after being released by the Oakland Raiders.

"I felt rusty, but we did pretty good," Slaughter said. "Training camp is for shaking off the rust and trying to get continuity with the group.

"I know I need to work on tweaking my technique. The game experience is the best thing for that."

Added right offensive guard Marshal Yanda: "We were doing things right."

Due to a lack of depth, Kracalik played every snap. In the second half, he shifted to left tackle in place of Slaughter.

"I thought it went pretty well for the line," Kracalik said. "We moved the ball, and I thought we had good communication. They had a pretty basic front. I thought this was a good start for us."

GREGG HAS SURGERY: Nose guard Kelly Gregg confirmed that he recently underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.

Gregg is on crutches and his knee is heavily wrapped, but he should be able to return in time for the season opener.

"They cleaned it out," he said.

INJURY UPDATE: Harbaugh declined to reveal the status of linebacker Prescott Burgess, who had surgery to repair his broken left wrist. He did say that the injury isn’t regarded as season-ending.

"We’re not going to disclose it right now," Harbaugh said.

Several players didn’t practice in addition to Gregg and Burgess, including cornerbacks Chris McAlister (right knee) and Fabian Washington (undisclosed), running backs Willis McGahee (left knee) and P.J. Daniels (shoulder), linebacker Dan Cody (right foot), tight ends Todd Heap (right calf), Aaron Walker (left knee) and Daniel Wilcox (offseason toe surgery), wide receivers Demetrius Williams (left Achilles’ tendon) and Patrick Carter (dislocated left shoulder), Gaither (sprained right ankle) and Terry (sprained left ankle), defensive tackles Haloti Ngata (sprained right medial collateral ligament) and Kelly Talavou (sprained shoulder) and linebacker Terrell Suggs (contract dispute).

Rookie linebacker Tavares Gooden left the field midway through practice, favoring his right leg.

Meanwhile, Gaither’s ankle is slowly progressing. He is no longer in a walking boot.

He drew the ire of offensive line coach John Matsko when he limped onto the field Saturday morning at McDaniel College. With the offensive line performing individual drills and Terry already on the field watching, Gaither showed up later and Matsko noted that Terry arrived early for his treatment session so he could get on the field with his teammates.

The Ravens have been looking for tackles and recently had a preliminary conversation with Fred Miller’s agent. However, the veteran lineman prefers to re-sign with the Chicago Bears.

SLOPPY DAY: Harbaugh, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and offensive line coach John Matsko admonished the offense as they looked sluggish Saturday with several interceptions and other miscues.

The pass blocking was not up to par, and the offense was penalized for three false starts.

Troy Smith threw three interceptions in his first eight passes.

Following a Smith incompletion to running back Cory Ross, Harbaugh called the first-string offense back onto the field for extra work.

"The ones back on the field," Harbaugh said loudly. "The offense decided not to come to practice today. We’re going to get this right."

GETTING IN SHAPE: Fullback Le’Ron McClain has made good progress since reporting out of shape when camp started and failing his conditioning test before eventually passing the running test and being activated from the non-football injury list.

McClain cramped up following his first practice and had to be helped off the field by trainers.

"He’s still not there shape-wise, physically," Harbaugh said. "He’s done a heck of a job. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a guy get into playing shape as quickly as he has from where he was coming from.

"He worked hard. He took a ton of reps. He had a full-body cramp on the steps right over here one day. That was part of his process, and he had a good game the other night."

QUICK HITS: Third-round pick Tom Zbikowski had three tackles in his first NFL game, one less than fellow rookie safety Haruki Nakamura. "It felt good to fly around out there and have some fun," Zbikowski said. "I think early on I was trying to do too much. As the game went on, I started to relax. I played fast and I started to make some plays." … Smith and Flacco took most of the snaps with Kyle Boller working less after starting the preseason opener. … When running back Allen Patrick and wide receiver Matt Willis bobbled a handoff on a reverse, defensive tackle Justin Bannan dove on the fumble. They repeated the play and got it right, drawing sarcastic applause from the crowd. … Rookie running back Ray Rice shrugged off having his helmet knocked off by Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo, noting that he’s been tackled by Ray Lewis before. "As far as the hitting, I’ve been hit by one of the best out here in our defense," Rice said. "So, that was kind of natural for me."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.
Photo by Sabina Moran.

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Aaron Wilson

About Aaron Wilson

Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post as well as the Baltimore Ravens for The Carroll County Times and Ravens24x7.com. He has previously covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans and has covered the NFL since 1997.  He has won several regional writing awards, including, most recently, Best Sports News Story for the state of Maryland in voting conducted by the Associated Press managing editors.  More from Aaron Wilson


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