PLEASE NOTE:The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed on BaltimoreRavens.com represent those of individual authors, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the Baltimore Ravens' organization, front office staff, coaches and executives. Authors' views are formulated independently from any inside knowledge and/or conversations with Ravens officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
Michael Oher, Marshal Yanda, Matt Birk and Kelechi Osemele echoed the same sentiment after Friday's night's 27-12 preseason loss to the Detroit Lions at M&T Bank Stadium.
The offensive line is starting to gel.
"We're definitely starting to come together," Oher said. "We're still learning and guys are still getting used to some things, but we're getting better."
A week after noticeably struggling in the preseason opener against Atlanta, the first-team line had a much better showing against the Lions talented front. The running backs had lanes to run through and quarterback Joe Flacco had time to throw.
"We're definitely starting to gel," Osemele said. "Six days a week of practicing together, you're going to start to gel, and this week it really showed. We started gelling and having some pretty good days."
Part of the improved play was getting Birk, who's primary job as center is to communicate with the unit, back in the lineup. The six-time Pro Bowler missed last week's game with back spasms.
Along with Birk at center, the Ravens started Oher at left tackle, Osemele at right tackle, Yanda at right guard and free-agent acquisition Bobbie Williams at left guard. Veteran left tackle Bryant McKinnie is still working with the second team.
"Obviously getting Matt back is a big deal because he's a good player and he's also our leader in there, our play caller," Yanda said. "It's nice having our core guys back."
The improved protection made a difference right away, as Flacco took advantage of time in the pocket and was able to move the ball down the field. The first-team offense didn't finish with touchdowns in the red zone, but was able to put the field goal unit in position to score points on two of their three possessions.
"It is important to move the ball, the chains and get those first downs," Birk said. "We obviously didn't go out there every drive and score, but it was important to get that first first down, get some rhythm and get some momentum."
For the second-straight week, the offense came out of the game in the no-huddle, which they have focused on this offseason. Using the no-huddle requires the offensive line to play at an uptempo pace, and the group responded well to that on Friday.
"I think we've always been a no-huddle team, no-huddle first, and then you go from there," Yanda said. "It's just that we're using it more and we're just trying to get as many reps as we can right now to get a rhythm going. I think we like it. There's a time where the defense gets tired out there, there's no doubt. That helps us."
The line is still a work in progress, as the coaching staff is trying to determine whether to start McKinnie at left tackle and then slide Oher back to the right side. The group is adamant that there is still room for improvement, but Friday's showing was a positive step.
"We've got a lot of things we can work on, and I'm pretty sure once we cut the film, we'll have some mistakes and some things we can do better," Oher said.