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John Harbaugh Very Pleased With Offensive Line, Except Holding Penalties

Posted Sep 12, 2017

The Ravens offensive line was one of the biggest question marks entering the season-opener. It came out as one of 13 teams around the NFL that gave up one sack or fewer.

The Ravens’ starting offensive line Sunday had a little more than a week of practice together before taking on one of the best defensive lines in the NFL in Cincinnati.

What Baltimore lacked in practice time, however, was made up during Sunday’s game.

During a key third-quarter drive in which the Ravens executed 12 straight running plays, the offensive line gelled. It had been playing well all game, but the unit bonded on that drive.

“The spirit level was really high,” left tackle Ronnie Stanley said. “We were all pumping each other up to keep the ball moving. It’s an addiction. Once you get going, you just want to keep going.”

The Ravens churned out 157 yards on 42 carries in Sunday’s 20-0 win. Baltimore was one of just 13 teams around the NFL that gave up just one sack or fewer.

For all the consternation and questions about Baltimore’s offensive line, it was perhaps the most pleasant surprise of all in the Ravens’ opening win.

“They were very physical, very minimal assignment errors. The technique was solid, for the most part,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said Monday. “They put out a good front yesterday. So, those guys stepped up and played really good football.”

Stanley manned left tackle while James Hurst was at left guard for the first time in his football career. Ryan Jensen stepped in as the new starting center, Pro Bowler Marshal Yanda manned right guard and newly-signed Austin Howard was at right tackle.

According to Pro Football Focus, they gave up just the one sack, two quarterback hits and seven pressures. For the most part, quarterback Joe Flacco had a clean pocket to throw from in his first game after a back injury sidelined him for 36 days.

With that said, Flacco only attempted 17 passes. So most of the time, Baltimore’s big-bodied offensive line was going forward, attacking the Bengals defensive line anchored by Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins.

And that’s just the way the Ravens offensive linemen like it.

“We ran the ball well and protected Joe well. It was fun out there,” Yanda said.

“It was a great time,” Stanley added. “Running the ball, you have control of the game. That means the defense is trying to get the ball back and they’re in desperation mode.”

Still, there are some hiccups to work out.

Jensen was called for three holding penalties. One was declined. The other two wiped out runs of 8 and 14 yards. Jensen is known for his physicality and showed that at various times, but he has to do a better job of not drawing flags.

Harbaugh said he wasn’t surprised by the team’s two delay of game penalties and pair of false starts (Stanley, Hurst) because of the offensive line’s lack of practice with Flacco. The holding penalties are a different issue.

“The holding penalties, to me, are technique penalties,” Harbaugh said. “That should not happen. They were all legitimate calls, and we just have to clean that up, and we have to block better in those situations.

“We had way too many really good [blocks] – a really good blocking outing – to have holding penalties bring those plays back. To me, that is something that, just from a technique standpoint, we have to clean up.”

The Ravens traded for a pair of centers, Tony Bergstrom and Luke Bowanko, when finalizing their 53-man roster. Both were active for the regular-season opener despite being with the team for just one week. As both get more up to speed with the offense, they’ll compete with Jensen for the starting job.

It’s not just the offensive linemen who impressed Harbaugh. It was also the blocking of the big tight ends, including Nick Boyle, and others.

“I’ll tell you, our offense was very physical,” Harbaugh said. “There were some guys coming off the ball; I am talking about offensive line, tight ends, running backs – Terrance [West] and ‘Buck’ [Allen] running hard – wide receivers were blocking downfield.”

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