Ravens notes: Blockers are struggling

OWINGS MILLS -- It resembles a jail break, or a herd of students rushing out the door for recess. It's a chaotic scene that's rapidly become the horrendous reality for the Baltimore Ravens' offensive line. The football is snapped and the defensive line surges forward, in some cases by executing basic stunt packages or delayed blitzes. Seconds later, the quarterback is slammed to the ground for yet another sack.

This has happened nine times in two games, including six sacks allowed in a 25-10 loss Sunday to the Tennessee Titans. Baltimore (0-2) has already seen quarterback Kyle Boller sidelined with a turf toe when Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle Larry Triplett burst past left guard Edwin Mulitalo and left tackle Jonathan Ogden in the season opener for a sack.

It's a massive understatement to say that blocking has become a major issue for the Ravens, who rank last in the NFL in rushing with 45.5 yards per contest.

"What happened is Tennessee played a very good game, and we didn't play as well as we could play," offensive line coach Chris Foerster said. "We didn't execute our offense well enough from the line's perspective.

"We've got to work harder and do a better job. There are no real specifics to it. It's a little bit here and a little bit there."

Quarterback Anthony Wright has been sacked eight times, ranking third in the AFC behind the Houston Texans' David Carr and the Jacksonville Jaguars' Byron Leftwich as the quarterback sacked most often, according to Stats, Inc.

Three sacks against Tennessee came from left defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch. He kept running upfield past right offensive tackle Orlando Brown. It didn't help matters much that the Ravens kept tight end Todd Heap in for pass protection often.

"We had to throw the ball a little bit more than we would like to and we didn't protect well enough in those instances," Foerster said. "All those numbers say exactly the same thing: the situational things we are lacking in. The most important statistic is we don't have a win."

The Ravens were held to a franchise-low 14 rushing yards against the Titans. Former Pro Bowl runner Jamal Lewis, who was held to nine yards on 10 carries against the Titans, has rushed for only 57 yards.

Lewis is tied for the league lead with New York Jets running back Curtis Martin with 10 "stuffs," a statistic that tracks how often a runner gains no yards or is tackled for a loss.

In particular, Mulitalo and center Mike Flynn struggled against massive Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. He consistently beat them at the line of scrimmage and shoved them into the backfield. Run blocking used to be a strong suit, but even that's no longer a certainty.

"We had a game plan that attacked them very specifically, that we thought could be successful and weren't able to execute it," Foerster said. "There was really nothing earth-shattering that they did differently. They just played well."

Age could be a major factor in the line's regression. Four of the Ravens' five starters are over age 30. The line averages 336 pounds and doesn't appear as quick as it used to.

The only changes from last season are Foerster replacing veteran line coach Jim Colletto and the addition of right offensive guard Keydrick Vincent.

Are the Ravens stuck in a learning curve or have they simply lost their edge?

"I don't think that's a factor," Foerster said. "Derrick Mason caught eight passes. He's brand new to us. This block is that block. They've all been doing it for years.

"Sometimes, there's more familiarity between Jonathan and Edwin that isn't there between Keydrick and Orlando, but is that why this happened? No, they came out and got us."

Foerster offered no specific solutions for the line's problems other than continuing to practice a strong work ethic while attempting to protect the quarterback, run the football better and score more points Oct. 2 against the New York Jets.

"I think these guys put things behind them pretty quickly in the NFL," Foerster said. "Guys are asked about what happened and they have to respond, where to place blame, whose fault it is. The game's over.

"While it hurts to lose, I don't think anybody is going, ‘Woe is me,' or, ‘We're not going to be able to do this or that.' I think our guys work hard every week and will continue to practice very well."

NOTES: The Ravens re-signed wide receiver Patrick Johnson and waived rookie quarterback Derek Anderson, a sixth-round pick who was the backup Sunday. The Ravens have two openings on the practice squad, which Anderson is eligible to join if he clears waivers, after terminating the contracts of offensive guard Phil Hawkins and wide receiver Cole Magner. … Derrick Mason and Ovie Mughelli helped refurbish a home in Sandtown as part of the Habitat for Humanity program. Terry Jones and other Ravens assisted the hot lunch program at Paul's Place Outreach Center, which serves Pigtown residents. …A group of rookies, including first-round pick Mark Clayton, attended a Cooking 101 lesson at the ESPNZone in the Inner Harbor.

Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher, who's co-chair of the league's competition committee that outlawed the horse-collar tackle, said he wants and expects Ravens kicker Matt Stover to be fined for his tackle of Courtney Roby on Sunday. Stover slung Roby down by his shoulder pads to prevent a touchdown on a kickoff return.

"It was a horse-collar, it is no question," Fisher told Tennessee reporters. "That is what we identified as the type of tackle we wanted to get out of the game. And, in my opinion, it was. It is difficult to call.

"The officiating crew has been directed to be 100 percent sure, and it is difficult to call, it is new. But it is not difficult to enforce at a league level, from a fine standpoint."

A league spokesman said that any potential fine wouldn't likely be announced until Friday.

In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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