Ravens' blockers helping Boller succeed

OWINGS MILLS -- It's no mystery to unravel one of the primary reasons why Baltimore Ravens quarterback Kyle Boller has transformed from erratic to suddenly efficient. He has more than enough time to throw as his makeshift offensive line has only surrendered two sacks in consecutive victories, coinciding with previously unseen offensive production.

Between adjusting to aggressive blitz packages to moving their feet adeptly to contend with swift pass rushers such as Green Bay's Kabeer Gbaja-Bamila and Minnesota's Lance Johnstone, the Ravens' blockers have performed much better lately.

Not coincidentally, Boller has produced with 542 yards, six touchdowns and just one interception as Baltimore (6-9) generated 78 points against the Packers and Vikings. In Sunday night's 30-23 win over the Vikings, Boller completed 10 of 11 passes on third down for 185 yards and three touchdown passes.

"My offensive line, I can't say enough how much they're blocking great," said Boller, who has been sacked 21 times overall in an up-and-down season abbreviated by a toe injury. "It makes it so much easier for me. I can go back and make my reads."

The offensive line has undergone several changes, most notably an entirely new right side after tackle Orlando Brown and Keydrick Vincent were placed on injured reserve. Tony Pashos has started six games at tackle, and Brian Rimpf has started six games at guard. Neither player is overwhelmingly quick or athletic, but both have held up solidly.

Meanwhile, left tackle Jonathan Ogden was selected to his ninth Pro Bowl last week. Against the Vikings on a Jamal Lewis run for a first down, Ogden blocked three players downfield.

Left guard Edwin Mulitalo has battled a painful knee injury throughout the season, and rookie Jason Brown is playing more and more late in the season.

The youth movement on the offensive line generally seems to be paying off, especially in the last couple of games.

"The young guys are getting more confident," center Mike Flynn said. "They're going to have to get better physically, but mentally they're sharp, which is very important in this league.

"Everybody gets beat physically in this league, even the great players. They're playing solid and are getting better and better every week."

The Ravens have registered at least 320 yards in the past three games with 367 against Minnesota, 435 against Green Bay and 323 yards in a 12-10 loss to the Denver Broncos.

"You've got to take your hat off to Kyle because now he's reading and he's confident in the pocket, and the offensive line is doing a tremendous job of giving him enough time," wide receiver Derrick Mason said.

For the season, Baltimore has allowed 40 sacks to rank 20th in the NFL. The running game has been a major disappointment, ranking 19th in the league.

However, one byproduct of a disappointing season has been the chance to evaluate younger blockers. When the season started, the Ravens had four starters over age 30, including the 35-year-old Brown.

Now, the Ravens are fielding a starting five that includes Rimpf, 24, and Pashos, 25, along with increased playing time for Brown, a 22-year-old fourth-round pick from North Carolina.

"In particular with who has been in the game and the young players, that's been a real positive," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "When you talk about what we've learned in the past four or five weeks, we've probably learned as much about some of these young offensive linemen as anybody on the team."

NOTE: Wide receiver Mark Clayton was nominated for NFL Rookie of the Week with voting closing Thursday afternoon on the NFL's Web site.

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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