Ravens O-Line in Transition

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On the first play of the Ravens' mandatory minicamp, the football hit the turf.

Newly-acquired center Matt Birk, a six-time Pro Bowler, got mixed up with quarterback Joe Flacco as they exchanged the snap.

In fact, Friday's practice sessions included three center-to-quarterback mishaps.

While there were no quarterback fumbles on Saturday, it just goes to show that Baltimore's offensive line still needs to develop chemistry.

"It takes a while, but that's what the offseason is for," said Birk, who was signed from the Minnesota Vikings in March. "Especially for me, starting with a new offense, I need to learn the way things are done around here. Obviously, Joe and the other guys have been in this system for a year, so we need to make the most out of these camps."

Birk is but one of the different faces stocking the Ravens' front wall this weekend, as injuries have kept multiple starting staples from practicing.

Right guard Marshal Yanda is recovering from a severe knee injury that included three torn ligaments. Left guard Ben Grubbs is coming back from an undisclosed injury.

And, the right tackle position is being filled by first-round draft pick Michael Oher, taking over for Willie Anderson and Adam Terry. Anderson has not yet practiced because of knee injuries, according to head coach John Harbaugh, while Terry underwent knee surgery a few months ago.

Even though Oher, Chris Chester (right guard) and Tre Stallings (left guard) are substituting, they know the depth chart is far from completed this early in the offseason.

"We're all learning," Oher said. "I'm not in there yet. I still have to keep working, but this gives me an opportunity. I have a lot to learn, and I'll still be learning throughout this offseason. These camps show me what I need to work on to compete for the starting job.

"Then, when OTAs (Organized Team Activities) come, I'll know how I need to attack that starting job."

Right tackle is one of the main focal points for many Ravens fans.

Anderson, a 14-year veteran and four-time Pro Bowler, started 11 games for Baltimore last year. Terry saw spot duty there, as the 2005 second-round draft pick logged seven starts and was a key cog in offensive coordinator Cam Cameron's unbalanced line formation.

The Ravens used both Anderson and Terry at times to create mismatches against an opponent's defensive front, an alignment that typically opened up an extra running lane.

Cameron hopes to have both Anderson and Terry back on the field soon.

"What Willie Anderson has done for our offense last year - his leadership, the way he played - was critical to our success," Cameron said Saturday of the absent player. "He knows his body. We'll let him rattle those things through this mind. He's a guy that's helped us tremendously."

Cameron seemed even more positive about Terry, who was dogged by ankle and knee injuries for the past two years.

"We'd like to see Adam Terry come back and be dominant," admitted Cameron. "That's what he's capable of doing. That's why they drafted him here, that's why they moved up in the Draft to get him.

"We expect him to get healthy, come in here, and be a dominant tackle, and help us win. He's a veteran player at this point. He's a veteran football player who needs to help us win a championship."

There is a real possibility that Oher, 6-foot-4, 309 pounds, could seize the starting job from both of them, however, especially now that he is getting all the reps at the position. With Oher manning the right side and the 23-year-old Jared Gaither on the left, Baltimore would have one of the most promising set of bookends in the NFL.

Still, Oher remains humble. The Ole Miss product said that he hasn't directly spoken with Gaither about that scenario. At this point, learning the playbook is his biggest goal.

"We've got a young offensive line, so I'm just trying to step in and compete," he stated. "The speed isn't a big problem, but it comes down to technique. If you don't have the right technique, you're going to get beat every time."

To Cameron, it is evident that Birk already has the technique to adequately replace Jason Brown, who was signed by the St. Louis Rams.

"Obviously his play speaks for itself, but until you work with somebody, you really don't understand why they've been in that many Pro Bowls, and now we know," Cameron said.

Birk joked that he's snapped for 20-30 quarterbacks in his esteemed career, and there is always a transition period to become accustomed to an unfamiliar cadence.

But his situation is representative of the entire unit.

It is early, but it is also a new season.

"We're all trying to get used to each other, and that will come," Birk said. "It's a good thing we have a long time before opening day. By then, we'll all be on the same page."

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