The Ravens are in their fourth week of training camp with their first preseason game in the rear-view mirror, and they're still waiting for their franchise quarterback to return and their offensive line to settle in.
Joe Flacco remains sidelined because of his back injury and won't suit up in any preseason games.
The offensive line just lost starting left guard Alex Lewis to season-ending shoulder surgery and is also without his top backup, rookie Nico Siragusa, because of a season-ending knee injury. On Monday, left tackle Ronnie Stanley missed his second straight practice. There is no indication of any major injury, but no update on his status either.
That left James Hurst bouncing around once again for Monday morning's practice. In a span of just more than a week, Hurst went from the everyday first-team right tackle to top swing tackle to first-team left guard and now first-team left tackle. Once Stanley returns, Hurst will shift back to guard, but, for now, it's a shuffling deck.
As more time passes and pieces continue to move, the question becomes whether there's enough time for everybody – especially the offensive line – to get on the same page by the time the Ravens kick off the regular season against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 10.
"Well, that is a good point, because typically if you look around football, the line plays together. Five or six guys play together pretty much throughout the year, and that way you can stay pretty consistent that way. So, yes, it is important," Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said Monday.
"It looks like we have just enough time to get that done."
The Ravens have about four weeks and three preseason games remaining before heading to Cincinnati. The starting offensive line likely won't play in the fourth preseason game, however.
They need to get together and build chemistry and consistency as soon as possible. Mornhinweg feels that's made easier because he's working with good players.
The addition of Austin Howard is huge, especially given Lewis' injury. The big, tough-to-move veteran tackle is still picking up the Ravens' terminology (Mornhinweg said it's very different from what Howard previously had), but he's looked good so far.
"First of all, they are good ball players. They are quite natural; it comes to them very quickly," Mornhinweg said. "Second, it sure is a good thing that we made those adjustments now when we have plenty of time to get this thing done."
While Howard works on the offense's terminology, Hurst is learning a new position. He played 16 snaps at left guard last season, according to Pro Football Focus, and has little experience there. The team feels he's well-suited to play the position, however, and Hurst is eager to learn.
"James Hurst is a good football player, and he is a versatile football player," Mornhinweg said. "He most likely if asked could play really anywhere across the [offensive] line."
Then there's Flacco – the most important piece in the puzzle. Flacco has had just two minicamp practices with wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, and hasn't played with tight end Benjamin Watson at game speed since last preseason.
As Mornhinweg said, the Ravens "would love" to have Flacco on the field now, but they aren't concerned yet that he won't have enough time to develop chemistry.
"There is no substitute for experience and especially in this situation," Mornhinweg said. "It looks like we are going to have just enough time there to get him ready as long as he keeps progressing, and by all accounts, he is progressing pretty well."