News & Notes: Offensive Line Deserves Props; Will Have Rotation at Left Guard

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Ravens Offense

When Head Coach John Harbaugh singled out Lamar Jackson for praise during his postgame locker room speech after beating the mighty Kansas City Chiefs, 36-35, Jackson interrupted him.

"Hey! Hey! Hey! The offensive line!" Jackson shouted.

Baltimore's offensive line received a lot of flack over the previous week after Jackson was battered in Las Vegas, ending with a game-altering overtime fumble. On Sunday night, the unit had a bounce-back game.

Against the Chiefs' dangerous defensive line, featuring Pro Bowlers Chris Jones and Frank Clark, Baltimore gave up just one sack and ran for 251 yards.

"I thought they played really well together," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "Really, no missed assignments. Communication was so good. Physicality was there. The game plan was really good. We had all kinds of different types of protections we were rolling through to take care of their blitzes that [Chiefs Defensive Coordinator Steve] Spagnuolo does, so they played really well together."

After getting two sacks the previous week against a strong Cleveland Browns offensive line, Jones had just one tackle and one hurry in Baltimore. Clark received the lowest grade of all Chiefs defenders, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF), with two tackles and one hurry.

Alejandro Villanueva, making the switch back to his natural left tackle position to fill in for Ronnie Stanley (ankle), was the Ravens' highest-graded offensive player, per PFF. In 76 snaps, he didn't give up a single pressure.

"He played well. The experience is a big part of it, for sure," Harbaugh said. "He's played that position. I'm sure it helped him a lot; he's on the side he's used to playing. It's not easy to go to the other side. I don't doubt that he can play on the right side very effectively; that's time on task. … He and Patrick Mekari cannot be overlooked."

Villanueva was far from the only Ravens lineman who played well. Patrick Mekari, who started his first-ever NFL game at right tackle, also did not allow a single pressure. Right guard Kevin Zeitler's pull block helped seal Jackson's 4th-and-1 conversion to seal the game, along with Villanueva and Trystan Colon, who entered as part of the unbalanced package.

The other important development for the Ravens' offensive line was the debut of third-round rookie Ben Cleveland – the imposing 6-foot-6, 357-pound blocker who fans fell in love with this summer. Cleveland missed time in training camp due to a concussion and Tyre Phillips and Ben Powers beat him out, leaving the rookie as a healthy scratch in Week 1.

Powers started Sunday night's game and played the majority of the snaps (44 of 76), but that left 32 snaps for Cleveland, including ones in critical situations.

Harbaugh said the Ravens will continue to rotate Powers and Cleveland moving forward.

"You never know until a guy gets in a game and plays his first game," Harbaugh said of Cleveland. "He was very solid out there, had a couple powerful, physical blocks. I would say he's young, technique-wise, when you watch him, but that's only going to get better too."

Speaking of blocking, Harbaugh also mentioned the excellent perimeter blocking after watching Sunday night's game on film. Tight end Mark Andrews, who has emphasized improving his blocking, received the team's highest run-blocking grade.

Brandon Williams' Neck Strain Considered Minor

Nose tackle Brandon Williams exited Sunday's game in the second half with a neck strain and did not return.

Veteran Justin "Jelly" Ellis replaced Williams and the Ravens run defense had a strong night overall, limiting the Chiefs to just 62 yards and 3.4 per rush on the ground.

On Monday, Harbaugh said Williams' injury is considered "minor" but didn't give a timetable for his return.

The other injury coming out of Sunday night was a concussion suffered by DeShon Elliott, which forced him out of the game.

Brandon Stephens Steps in, With Room to Improve

There's being thrown into the fire, and then there's being thrown into your second NFL game against the Chiefs.

That was the challenge rookie third-round pick Brandon Stephens had Sunday night when he took over for Elliott in the second half. The Ravens needed defensive stops and Stephens had to do his part.

Stephens had a couple tough moments with his tackling angles, but overall did a solid job, especially considering the circumstances. Not only is he a rookie against the Chiefs, but he's also a converted college running back who then went to cornerback before shifting to NFL safety.

"It's pretty amazing because he hasn't played defensive back that much," Harbaugh said. "I thought he played well. He'll look at the tape and he'll say, 'Man, I can do so many things so much better,' which is what I love about him."

Anthony Averett's Pass Breakup Deserves Another Look

It wasn't a squeaky clean game for the Ravens secondary. It never will be for anyone playing against Patrick Mahomes.

But when a big play presents itself, particularly on third down, you have to make them to get the Chiefs off the field.

With the Chiefs leading, 35-30, early in the fourth quarter and facing a third-and-9 from their own 36-yard line, Mahomes targeted his top wide receiver – Tyreek Hill.

The Ravens used a lot of tactics to try to take away Hill, but this time, it was Averett locked in one-on-one coverage. Now a starter with Marcus Peters (knee) out, Averett stayed in Hill's back pocket and got the pass deflection.

The Chiefs were forced to punt and the Ravens took the lead on the next drive.

"That was a big-time play against a great quarterback and receiver with a really good, well-timed route," Harbaugh said. "He played like a very good starting corner out there."

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