Counting down to their second preseason game on Friday night, the Ravens are still trying to find the perfect combination on their offensive line as they begin their fourth week of training camp.
With left guard Bobbie Williams sitting out Monday’s practice with a swollen ankle, Baltimore showed a new alignment up front as veteran Bryant McKinnie lined up at left tackle and Michael Oher moved back to the right tackle spot in the outside alignment the Ravens used last season. Even more intriguing was who took Williams place at left guard with rookie Kelechi Osemele shifting inside.
Osemele hadn’t worked at the left guard spot since organized team activities and had been used as the team’s starting right tackle with Oher on the left side and McKinnie receiving reps with the second-string line. Coach John Harbaugh downplayed the significance of the new alignment and chalked it up to simple experimentation, but the timing is interesting after Williams struggled against the Atlanta Falcons in the preseason opener last week.
“We’re going to work different combinations,” coach John Harbaugh said. “I think it’s important to look at guys in different spots. In the end, it will pay off for us, because guys will be more versatile, and we want to make sure we don’t miss anything. So, we have an opportunity to do that now.”
Most have predicted that McKinnie will eventually work his way back into the starting lineup, but Osemele has been the biggest surprise among offensive linemen and was complimented by Harbaugh for his play against Atlanta. The Ravens were expected to have Osemele and second-year tackle Jah Reid — who practiced Monday for the first time during training camp — compete for the starting left guard job before they signed the 35-year-old Williams in early June.
With Williams receiving rest and his durability likely coming into question, the Ravens appear to be re-examining their options to find the optimal starting five to protect quarterback Joe Flacco and to open holes for Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice. Despite his struggles in Atlanta, Williams has received positive reviews during camp and had practiced nearly every day this summer.
“That’s where we’re at right now,” Harbaugh said. “We just kind of work in some different guys and combinations and let them compete.”
The rough days have been few and far between for veteran Billy Cundiff and rookie Justin Tucker, but the former experienced arguably his worst day of the summer Monday.
Cundiff went 2-for-5 on field goals including surprising misses from 24 and 34 yards. The 2010 Pro Bowl kicker hooked the 24-yarder wide left and pushed the 34-yard attempt to the right. Cundiff also missed a 52-yard field goal at the end of practice.
Meanwhile, Tucker finished the day going 6-for-7 with his only miss coming from 52 yards in the final portion of the workout. Unlike Cundiff, the rookie from Texas was awarded another try from the same spot and made the second one.
Harbaugh explained what contributed to Cundiff’s miss from 24 yards but also added that the try still needed to be converted.
“That was a real high snap, so that threw his timing off, and Billy was out in front of it,” Harbaugh said. “I think sometimes when you have bad conditions, the kicker will slow down to account for the possibility of a bad snap plus a plant foot sliding. So, a high snap like that [in] good conditions, he really didn’t expect that he was out in front of it, and that’s why he missed it. You still need to make it, but it makes it tougher.”
An impressive touchdown strike from Flacco to wide receiver LaQuan Williams highlighted the offense’s 11-on-11 work Monday, but the defense shined for much of the afternoon workout.
Cornerback Lardarius Webb stood out with an interception of Flacco and several other pass breakups. Safety Sean Considine also picked off a pass when a Flacco pass bounced off receiver Anquan Boldin’s hands on a quick slant pattern.
The second offense struggled just as much, as a Tyrod Taylor pass was thrown behind rookie tight end Matt Balasavage so badly that inside linebacker Jameel McClain began laughing and said, “He tried to catch it with his back!”
Rice clowning around
Perhaps the funniest moment of the day came when Rice was interacting with a young fan in attendance at the team’s Owings Mills facility.
With his backfield mate standing nearby, Rice insisted on trying to convince the spectator that Vonta Leach was his son. Even though the fullback is four inches taller, 48 pounds heavier, and five years older, Rice couldn’t help explaining how great it was to have his “son” playing with him on the same team.
For the record, the young Ravens fan wasn’t quite buying it.