Before any Ravens fans push the panic button because of the first team’s lackluster performance realize a few things. These games don’t count. It’s week one of the pre-season. If these games mattered, the 2008 Detroit Lions wouldn’t have gone without a win.
The Ravens came away with a 31-17 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday, but it sure didn’t feel like it. After watching and re-watching the game, I’ve noticed several things that need improvement before we take the field against Cincinnati September 10.
While the team wasn’t exactly astounding by any measure, the particular position group that stood out to me was the offensive line. They did not stand out in a good way though. The inconsistency in the pass game and lack of a push up front during run plays can be attributed to offensive line.
Yes, I know it’s early and the unit has not had time to gel as one just yet. But when have the Ravens had an established group of five on a consistent year-in-year out basis? It just hasn’t happened.
Each year, the Ravens seem to lose at least one lineman that started the previous year. This year has been no different with Ben Grubbs taking his talents to New Orleans. Also, Bryant McKinnie showing up late to camp can also be part of the blame for the offensive line’s struggles early on because Michael Oher has had to once again switch back to playing the left side.
Oher doesn’t seem as comfortable as he should at the left side because he was getting used to playing on the right. Constantly switching positions like that on the line is tough on a player, no matter if he’s a professional or not. Oher doesn’t have the size of a Bryant McKinnie, where he can use his arms and wingspan to his advantage. Oher is only 6-foot-4, which puts him at more of a disadvantage than his counterpart McKinnie, who stands at 6-foot-8. Going back to the left side also means different footwork for Oher. While it may seem trivial to some, if he pushes off and drops the wrong foot backwards, the result will be a kill shot on Joe Flacco. It remains to be seen if Oher will stay on the blind side or if McKinnie will earn the job back.
Two others noticeably struggled in the game against Atlanta: Gino Gradkowski and Bobbie Williams. The reason I grouped them together is they had issues communicating together, which is the number one priority of a good offensive line. Gino is a rookie, but if he expects to play a significant role on the team this year, he has to be able to call out protection schemes, make the shotgun snaps and get a better push up the middle than he did on Thursday. The same can be said for veteran Bobbie Williams. At times, he looked lost as the Ravens couldn’t run to the left with the normal success that they had in the past no matter the opponent. Nothing is more terrifying for a quarterback than seeing pressure come right up the middle. The Ravens will need to get this fixed before at least week three when the starters usually get the brunt of the reps.
There is still hope though Ravens fans. Matt Birk has returned to practice. McKinnie did not look half bad. Kelechi Osemele had shades of brilliance at right tackle. The question is, who will the starting five be and how long will they be together? I love John Harbaugh’s idea with the competition to find the best five, but it has to be the best five out there. Scrambling positions and moving guys across the line to find a starting five is not the answer.
Follow me on Twitter @Jeff_Kryglik.