OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Despite passing their opening test with overwhelming success in a 44-13 win over the Bengals on Monday night, the Ravens still view themselves as a work in progress.
With three positions on the offensive line being manned by different players from last year’s alignment and the offense running an expanded version of the no-huddle attack, the Ravens face another challenge Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles, who possess one of the best front fours in the NFL as well as arguably the best cornerback duo — Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha — in the league.
“They have a good front. They’ve had a good defense there for a lot of years,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “They have good [defensive backs]. They can put pressure on the quarterback and then they can cover in the back end to even create a little more pressure. They do a really job, and it’s going to be a tough task. It should be a great test for Week 2.”
The Eagles tied for the league lead in sacks with 50 in 2011. Defensive ends Trent Cole and Jason Babin combined for 29 sacks as the Philadelphia pass rush gave offensive lines fits throughout the season.
Left tackle Michael Oher and right tackle Kelechi Osemele will have their hands full with the wide alignment employed by the bookend pass-rushers. Their wide positioning often causes pass blockers to overcommit to protecting the outside, which creates an opening for a quick inside rush.
“This is a penetrating, wide-aligned defense that can really come after you,” offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. “This will be another test for those two young guys. It will be nice to see how they can adjust this week.”
The Ravens appear committed to the young offensive line as both Osemele and left guard Ramon Harewood turned in solid performances that reflected their quality work in practices, according to Cameron. Though Harewood won’t have to deal with the pair of defensive ends, the Eagles also possess challenging inside rushers in veteran Cullen Jenkins and rookie Fletcher Cox.
The offensive line thrived at times against Cincinnati’s defensive line, but the Eagles’ front four is a far cry from the solid but unspectacular Bengals front in terms of quickness and pass-rushing skills.
“These guys, they don’t stay blocked,” Cameron said. “They’re athletic. They’re explosive. They get off the ball probably as good as anybody in the league; I don’t know if they are the best yet, but they can get off the ball quickly.”
Being Michael Vick
Having grown up in Hampton, Va., backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor has been following Eagles quarterback Michael Vick’s career for much of his life.
Those observations have served him well this week as the Ravens are asking the second-year signal-caller to emulate Vick’s athleticism and propensity for taking off running, sometimes by design and also when plays break down.
“I’ve watched him enough throughout his time in high school, college, and a lot of the things he’s done in the NFL,” Taylor said. “He’s one of my favorite guys who plays quarterback, and we have a lot of similar things that we bring to the table. Going out there and trying to do some of the things he does, it’s not that hard for me but there are definitely some things you have to watch — how he controls the offense and how he conducts it.”
Vick may find himself with a limited number of passing targets against Baltimore as starting wide receivers Jeremy Maclin (hip) and DeSean Jackson (hamstring) are both dealing with injuries and missed Thursday’s practice. Those potential absences could lead to Vick heavily targeting No. 3 receiver Jason Avant and using running back LeSean McCoy more often as a receiver out of the backfield.
Regardless of who’s lining up at receiver, the Ravens feel fortunate to have Taylor’s athleticism to model what the defense will encounter at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday.
“If he could throw left-handed, it’d even be better, but he’s certainly running around, scrambling, doing those kinds of things,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “[He is] a great athlete and can help us in a lot those ways. The only thing is just you kind of have to flip everything formation-wise for Vick because of the left-handed stuff, but he is giving us a great look.”
Taylor credits Vick for being a major influence on his pro career as the former Virginia Tech quarterbacks talk frequently, and the Eagles quarterback even gave Taylor better tickets for Sunday’s game than the ones normally provided to the opposing team.
For now, Taylor will put the friendship aside and use as many of Vick’s secrets as he can to give the Baltimore defense the best possible look in practices.
“He’s meant a lot of me,” Taylor said. “He’s done a lot of things as far as helping me progress throughout my two years here. I’m just looking forward to reenacting some of the things he does with his offense this week to get our team prepared. It should be fun.”
Emergency long snapper?