BALTIMORE — By preseason standards, the Ravens’ 34-31 victory over the Washington Redskins was as exciting as they come, but the most significant news from Thursday surrounded a player who didn’t even suit up to play.
Following the game, coach John Harbaugh confirmed the team’s intention to move Michael Oher back to the right side, creating room for the newly-signed veteran Bryant McKinnie to assume his natural position at left tackle. McKinnie said in a radio interview Tuesday evening that the Ravens intended to play him on the left side, but Thursday’s post-game press conference provided the first public confirmation from the Ravens.
The projected move means the Ravens’ projected starting line would include left guard Ben Grubbs as the only player starting at the same position as the starting line used against the Redskins. With the fourth preseason game typically little more than a cameo appearance for the starters, it will be interesting to see how
“We’ll see how it goes; everything is fluid,” Harbaugh said. “I would love to say that’s set in stone, but that’s not set in stone. Bryant has played there, Michael has played the right side. Michael is about as good a person and as great a team guy as I’ve ever been around in my career. Ozzie [Newsome] and I brought him in and talked to him the night before last. He said it before we said it: ‘Whatever I need to do to help this be the best football team and the best offensive line that it can be [I’ll do].’”
With just over two weeks until meeting James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, and the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ravens will entrust McKinnie to protect quarterback Joe Flacco’s blind side. Despite making the Pro Bowl in 2009, McKinnie was released by the Minnesota Vikings earlier this month after his weight had ballooned to nearly 400 pounds and team doctors were concerned about his cholesterol level.
However, general manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens clearly feel confident in entrusting McKinnie with arguably the second-most important position on a football team behind the quarterback.
“He’s been working out, and he’s been eating right,” Harbaugh said. “He’s been working on football. We just had a great meeting with him. I’m very impressed with him. He’s a very mature guy, very excited to be here, very intelligent guy. I’m looking forward to getting him in the fold.”
With McKinnie’s arrival, Oher slides back to the position he held as a rookie in 2009 when Jared Gaither was the starter on the left side. The former first-round pick welcomed the veteran tackle and said all the right things about what many might perceive as a demotion.
“You’ve got to adjust, you’ve got to play football, you’ve got to do what the team needs,” said Oher, who expressed admiration for what McKinnie. “As long as you’re out there on the field and making holes for the running back and protecting [Flacco], we’ll be alright.
“I’m a team guy. I’m trying to win, and I want the best for the team, and that’s what it’s all about.”
With center Matt Birk (knee surgery) and right guard Marshal Yanda (back spasms) still sidelined with injuries, the Ravens may face the possibility of their starting offensive line having not played a game together until the Sept. 11 opener against Pittsburgh.
Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano has expressed his excitement about the Ravens’ top five cornerbacks, but none had clearly defined roles entering Thursday’s third preseason game.
Those questions remain unanswered as Domonique Foxworth and Cary Williams struggled in starting roles against the Redskins. Foxworth was beaten soundly by the speedy Anthony Armstrong on a 33-yard completion that set up a Tim Hightower 37-yard touchdown run two plays later. On the scoring play, Williams over-pursued on the weak side, missing the tackle as Hightower streaked left for the touchdown.
Foxworth still appears to be working to regain his full speed while Williams continues to play well at times, only to fall apart at other points like he did on the Redskins’ scoring drive late in the first half.
Rookie Jimmy Smith had the opportunity to intercept a pass intended for Santana Moss, but failed in doing so. Two plays later, Moss beat Smith — who was expecting deep help on the play — for a 24-yard touchdown catch with 51 seconds remaining before halftime.
It was another up-and-down performance for the 27th overall pick, who has struggled to find the ball despite being in position to make plays.
“Every game, I think I gain more confidence,” said Smith, who gave himself a C for the game. “Every practice I do, too. The more and more I get the defense down, the more I feel comfortable out there.”
Lardarius Webb blitzed numerous times from the nickel position and later collected an interception in the second half, but the third-year corner was also picked on at several points, continuing an inconsistent preseason.
Cornerback Chris Carr dressed during pregame warmups, but he was ultimately held out as he continues to recover from a hamstring issue.
In a battle with David Reed and fellow rookie Tandon Doss, former Maryland standout Torrey Smith had a disappointing night, dropping two passes and continuing a quite preseason for the second-round pick.
Smith finished with only one catch for 6 yards while Reed recorded one reception for 9 yards. Doss had the biggest night, making two impressive catches for 28 yards and displaying the strong hands he’s shown throughout training camp.
While none of the three separated themselves in the competition for the No. 3 receiver spot, the struggles of the speedy Smith continue to be a disappointment, even if eased by the acquisition of field-stretcher Lee Evans.
“Torrey just has to go out there and play — use his abilities,” Flacco said. “Has to make a move, run by guys, use his hands, go out there and play confidently and use his ability and make moves. I think he has a tendency to over-think things. He always wants to do the right thing. He always comes up to me and tells me he wants to do the right thing. Sometimes when you go out there on Sundays, you just have to let it go and play.”