The Ravens' offensive line looked slightly off-kilter in Sunday's 17-10 win over Cincinnati, but it wasn't because its performance lacked.
In fact, Baltimore did not give up a single sack, and the offense generated 229 rushing yards, sixth-best in team history.
But, the unit's uneven showing was just that, as offensive coordinator Cam Cameron kept the Bengals on their heels by using an unbalanced formation up front.
At several points during the Week 1 contest, right tackle Adam Terry would set at his regular starting spot, then pop up and motion to the left, eventually landing next to left tackle Jared Gaither as tight end Todd Heap then stepped back off the line.
The Ravens were able use the added bulk on the left side to push Cincinnati's wall and gain chunks of yards in key situations.
"I don't know if it confused them. It looked like they lined up OK, but I think we executed it very well," said head coach John Harbaugh. "One time especially, Ray [Rice] picked up some yards right before halftime and got down inside the 5 [-yard line]. But we were [in] that [formation] a lot."
Cameron is taking a page from defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, who routinely moves his players like chess pieces. Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata has taken snaps at linebacker, linebacker Bart Scott sometimes drops as a safety and safety Jim Leonhard even lined up at nose guard on one play during the preseason.
The offensive equivalent is most obvious when 260-pound fullback Le'Ron McClain carries the ball behind the similarly-sized Lorenzo Neal, but the offensive line shift is more subtle.
"When I look at our defense, you see Haloti Ngata playing linebacker," Cameron said on Ravens GamePlan, which will air this Thursday on WBAL 1090 Radio. "You see linebackers playing safety. We want to have good, tough, hard-nosed football players that can play a multitude of positions.
"We just want to maximize what we have, if it gives the defense problems, it becomes a plus."
The strategy certainly worked against the Bengals. McClain rushed for a career-high 86 yards, the majority of which came during a dominating fourth quarter when the Ravens needed to drain time off the clock.
Ray Rice churned out 64 yards on the day, many of which came in the complicated formation.
The attack was diverse, as backs ran straight through holes created by pulling right guard Marshal Yanda, and they cut back against the overloaded defense.
"They had to have seen some matchups they liked," said former Ravens center Mike Flynn. "It forced the nose tackle to shift over the guard, and that helps the offensive line."
Such success is a testament to the way a young group – the Ravens' starting five have an average age of 24 – came together in the preseason after losing 11-time Pro Bowler Jonathan Ogden to retirement in June.
"It's a start," said Terry. "We've got to do it next week and the week after that in order to say that's what we're about. But initially, it's a start."
Gaither agreed, saying, "I thought the O-line did great. We didn't give up any sacks. We gave up a few pressures, but we kept Joe [Flacco] clean. We just have a lot to work on, and we're going to look forward to Week 2, getting better and just making sure he doesn't get touched – no pressures.
"That's what we're aiming for – perfection."
There's no telling what tweaks Cameron will make to the offense this week when the Ravens begin preparations to face the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium. However, it's a safe bet that the unbalanced line will make an appearance again.
"It's nice when you get two guys that are 320-350 pounds side-by-side," Cameron said. "If you can put 700 pounds on a defensive end, you'd like to think you can dent the point of attack. Then if you put a 260-pound back behind those guys, you'd like to think you can get some yards."
Anderson to Take Field
The Ravens' line should welcome a new member this week, as Harbaugh said he expects former Bengals right tackle Willie Anderson to practice. Anderson, a four-time Pro Bowler, signed Sept. 5.
To make room for cornerbacks Fabian Washington and Derrick Martin, both of whom were suspended for Week 1, the Ravens released offensive tackle Mike Kracalik and kicker Steve Hauschka.
Baltimore also brought back tight end Edgar Jones to the practice squad. Jones was originally waived so the Ravens could add Anderson to the active roster.
Tight end Nate Lawrie was released from the Ravens' eight-man practice squad.