Ravens rounding up usual suspects of pass blockers

Alibis abound for the Baltimore Ravens. They have plenty of reasonable excuses for their inconsistent pass blocking. Leading up to today's challenging encounter with the Tennessee Titans, Baltimore (4-6) has offered plenty of information regarding the whereabouts and intentions of their offensive line. Whether it's his own fault or not, quarterback Jeff Blake continues to be a victim.

In a 26-7 debacle of a loss for the Ravens last Sunday in South Florida, Blake was assaulted more often by the Miami Dolphins than the punishment dealt out by perpetrators on "CSI: Miami."

Blake was dumped on the Pro Player Stadium turf for seven sacks. He fumbled twice.

Now, the Ravens have to block Tennessee ends Kevin Carter and Carlos Hall, who have combined for 12 sacks and 26 quarterback pressures. At least they might not have to block, "The Freak," also known as elite speed rusher Jevon Kearse, who will be a game-time decision.

"People have to keep in mind that's it's usually a lot of people who create a sack," said All-Pro offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, who had his own issues against the Dolphins. "I'm not saying the line isn't responsible. We definitely need to block better, but there's a lot of things involved: the coverage, where the backs are, the quarterback. These things happen sometimes."

In particular, the coaching staff is sensitive to criticism of Ethan Brooks, the latest person to occupy the right tackle spot.

That has been something of a Bermuda Triangle job for several Ravens in the past. Brooks gave up a few sacks and committed three false-start penalties in struggling to slow down formidable Dolphins end Jason Taylor. Instead of pointing the finger solely at Brooks as the guilty culprit, Ravens coach Brian Billick said Blake was actually greatly responsible for his own misfortune.

"A lot of it was Jeff Blake, his drops, where he belonged and Ethan Brooks actually played quite well," Billick said. "The tackles did a pretty good job of running them up the field. Jeff needs to do a better job of once he gets to that depth to just step right in the pocket."

Brooks is the replacement for left guard Edwin Mulitalo, whose experiment at right tackle was shut down in the third game of the season.

Before Mulitalo, Kipp Vickers, Erik Williams and Sammy Williams shared the position at various times last year. Not since Harry Swayne or Orlando "Zeus" Brown have the Ravens breathed relatively easy at right tackle.

Billick said he's not making any excuses for Brooks or, in general, the pass blocking, which has added up to 27 sacks.

"I am not OK with anything," Billick said. "Not when you get beat like that and you are 4-6. There is no reason to isolate Ethan Brooks because Ethan played as well as anybody out there.

"Whatever it looked like, Ethan was not the problem for the pressures of the sacks. He needs to play better, but again some of that was not Ethan's fault."

Possibly adding to the Ravens' difficulties is the potential return of Kearse, who is listed as questionable after breaking his foot and missing the first 11 weeks of the season. When healthy, Kearse is as fast and explosive as any pass rusher in the NFL. He's a three-time Pro Bowler. Carter, a former All-Pro with the St. Louis Rams, is tied for third in the AFC in sacks with seven.

"Kevin Carter is outstanding," Billick said.

Yet, Carter slumped to two sacks last season.

"I knew that was kind of an oddity for him, not the norm," Ogden said. Hall, a rookie from Arkansas, ranks second in the AFC and third in the NFL among rookies with five sacks. So, the Baltimore offensive line faces another complex assignment.

"Everyone has to do better," offensive guard Bennie Anderson said.

Regardless of whose fault it has been, a bottom line remains: The Ravens have to do a better job of protecting Blake, and he can't allow himself to become a sitting duck. Not that it's all being placed on his head, of course.

"Well, it's not all Jeff," Billick said. "It's kind of hard to tell a quarterback when that 280-pound guy is laying on top of you, ‘Don't let that happen.' There's only so much he can do."


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