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Youth Movement on O-Line


The Ravens may have the NFL's youngest offensive line, but the unit has played like a veteran group through two games.

Baltimore has only given up one sack through 48 passing attempts. The rushing attack is currently ranked second in the league with a 190.0-yard average per week.

As the Ravens take rookie Joe Flacco to Pittsburgh's Heinz Field for his first-career start in front of a hostile road crowd, that line's impact cannot be overstated.

"They've played well to date and I think they've come a long way," said head coach John Harbaugh, who credits offensive line coach John Matsko for much of their development. "They have protected Joe, and that helps Joe develop or any quarterback play better."

Center Jason Brown, 25, and right tackle Adam Terry, 26, represent the elders along the Ravens' front wall, which has an average age of 24 years and six months. Left tackle Jared Gaither is the youngest at 22, while left guard Ben Grubbs and right guard Marshal Yanda, both 2007 draft picks, are 24.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers feature the second-youngest group with an average of 24 years, 11 months.

For a unit that many pundits questioned in the offseason because of inexperience, it seems things are beginning to gel.

The Ravens have certainly progressed a long way from the start of training camp, when Terry and Gaither were out with ankle injuries. Terry got the chance to shake off some rust for the last two preseason games, while Gaither didn't return until the preseason finale.

"It's starting to come together," Terry stated. "Ben on the left side, and Marshal and I have always been good buddies. Jason in the middle is keeping everybody in check. The thing about this league is that you're only as good as you're last game."

Flacco's single sack came on his final pass attempt of the Ravens' 28-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns last Sunday, making it 47 consecutive clean dropbacks. Considering the Steelers' defense is known for bringing fierce pressure from various angles and positions, that should be good news for the first-round draft pick.

"Those guys have been doing a great job all throughout preseason and the first couple games in the regular season," Flacco said. "I always trusted that those guys were going to do a good job. I feel very comfortable behind those guys."

It goes beyond simply pass protection, however. The offensive line is getting the job done on the ground, as well, paving the way for 380 rush yards on the season. If the Ravens continue at their existing pace, which included an average of 4.2 yards per carry, they could smash the franchise single-season record of 2,674 yards set in 2003.

Baltimore's dominance up front shows up most at the end of games. The Ravens have run for 220 yards in the second half with an average time of possession of 22:12, compared with their opponents' 51 rush yards and 7:48 average time of possession.

"That type of game is fun," Terry noted. "Most guys in the NFL would like to go straight ahead instead of going backwards. It definitely helps our defense, too, because we can keep them off the field. The longer they rest, the more havoc they can wreak. It will be good if we can keep that up."

The Ravens may be happy with the early returns of their youth movement, but every member of the offensive line thinks they are just scratching the surface.

"It's a collective effort," said offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. "Are we anywhere close to where we want to be? Absolutely not. We're still growing as a unit and we're really growing almost minute by minute on the offensive line."

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