Ravens Notebook: Offensive line faces stiff test against Titans

Street Talk Ravens Notebook: Offensive line faces stiff test against Titans

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NASHVILLE, Tenn.– Just hit rewind of the video tape for a convincing reminder that the Baltimore Ravens’ offensive line is capable of stonewalling a formidable Tennessee Titans defensive line.

Go back to Oct. 5 when the Ravens held the Titans to no sacks in a 13-10 loss at M&T Bank Stadium as the most prolific front four in the league was silenced for just the second time this season.

Against a front seven headlined by intimidating defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and relentless defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, the Ravens more than held their own as rookie quarterback Joe Flacco was hardly even touched.

"We like our offensive line," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "We think their defensive line is maybe the strength of their team. They’ve got a great defensive line, so we’ve got our hands full."

This week marks the return of Haynesworth and Vanden Bosch from the injured list. And they’re licking their chops at the chance for another shot at the Ravens.

"I’ve been in hibernation for a month," Haynesworth told Tennessee reporters. "The grizzly’s hungry and he’s ready to eat. We’ve got to get after Flacco. We’ve got to hit him as many times as we possibly can. We’ve got to make him uncomfortable. We’ve got to make him realize he ain’t welcome in our stadium and just knock him down as many times as we can."

Of course, Haynesworth was practically shut down by Ravens left offensive guard Ben Grubbs in that first meeting.

Flacco doesn’t sound worried about pass protection, not after not being sacked in the Ravens’ 27-9 wild-card victory over the Miami Dolphins to open the playoffs.

"Our offensive line has been doing a great job all year, and they were doing a great job heading into that game," Flacco said. "I wasn’t really surprised by it. We’ve been impressed by these guys all year, a young group of guys that have gone in there and just fought and came out on top week in and week out."

IT’S UNANIMOUS: Ravens free safety Ed Reed was the lone unanimous selection on the Associated Press’ All-Pro squad, garnering all 50 votes from a nationwide panel of reporters who regularly cover the NFL.

Reed led the NFL with nine interceptions.

"My teammates are the ones that you have to worry about," Reed said. "It’s not just me out there on the field by myself. You’ve got guys doing some amazing things. The coaches are in the lab always drawing up great things for us to execute."

Added Harbaugh: "Tremendous feel for the game, very, very intelligent player. Studies it as well or better than anybody. And he’s a highly disciplined player. He plays his position as well as anybody I’ve ever seen."

Reed was joined on the All-Pro team by middle linebacker Ray Lewis and fullback Le’Ron McClain. They received 39 and 38 votes, respectively.

McClain led the Ravens with 902 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns.

"We’re just happy with the way he’s played so far, but we know he can be a lot better," Harbaugh said. "He’s physical. He runs north-south. He’s got a lot of strengths. Watch the tape, you’ll see it."

Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata received six votes, punter Sam Koch got five, and linebacker Terrell Suggs had two with Grubbs and inside linebacker Bart Scott claiming one vote apiece.

TRAINING ROOM: The Ravens listed eight players as questionable on the final injury report, including tight end Todd Heap with a back injury. He didn’t practice this week and is regarded as the team’s biggest question mark.

Heap has insisted he’ll play, but seems to even be having trouble walking without pain. Several teammates have noted that Heap’s injury seems to be fairly serious.

Meanwhile, Reed (knee, illness), defensive tackle Justin Bannan (foot), linebacker Jarret Johnson (calf), wide receiver Derrick Mason (dislocated left shoulder), cornerback Samari Rolle (hamstring), kicker Matt Stover (sprained right ankle) and cornerback Fabian Washington (neck) are all questionable and expe cted to play.

QUICK HITS: The Ravens are wary of the Titans’ ability to stretch the middle of the field with tight ends Bo Scaife and Alge Crumpler. Scaife leads the Titans with 58 catches for 561 yards. "They have two good tight ends," strong safety Jim Leonhard said. "Bo Scaife is a huge target and Alge has been a good tight end for a long time. They love to get them the ball in crucial situations. We have to be aware of them because they’re a big part of their offense and we know it’s a priority to get them the ball." … McClain doesn’t sound concerned about the pressure of the postseason. "This is the environment: win or go home," McClain said. "That’s the mentality, so you do whatever you have to do to win. We treat it like it’s just another game, but we know the stakes. If you lose, you go home, and I’m not trying to go home anytime soon." … Stover is accustomed to having to make game-winning kicks, and has envisioned converting another last-minute field goal. "You have to understand and embrace the pressure," Stover said. "You have to be emotionally and mentally ready. All week, I visualize it and I’ve pretty much already kicked in that situation before it happens." … Harbaugh was on the Philadelphia Eagles’ staff when Titans defensive end Jevon Kearse’s career began to fade, but Kearse looks revitalized now that he’s back in Tennessee with four sacks and three forced fumbles. "Jevon Kearse is a great leader, being around him, great competitor," Harbaugh said. "He’s playing outside, coming off the edge, which is probably his strength. And he looks like he did way back when. He’s playing at a really high level." … McClain and former starter Willis McGahee have contrasting running styles. McGahee tends to try to avoid defenders while McClain usually initiates contact. "Once I’m running, bang, I want to hit the guy," McClain said. "Willis slashes and uses his speed to get to the edge and get up the field." … Harbaugh has just one playoff game under his belt as he faces off with Titans coach Jeff Fisher, the longest-tenured coach in the NFL. "It seems like they have a great, experienced leader over there," Suggs said. "We’ve got a new young guy who’s hungry and he’s a very energetic leader over here."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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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. 

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