The Ravens went to Cincinnati with an offensive line that had hardly played together all summer, and with two players -- left guard James Hurst and center Ryan Jensen -- who were making their first career start at those positions.
By the end of the third quarter, after the Ravens had mounted a 17-play, 81-yard drive that included 11 straight running plays, it was clear this new offensive line configuration had passed its first test. Leading 17-0 at the time, the Ravens wanted to run the ball, the Bengals and their strong defensive front knew the Ravens wanted to run the ball, and yet the Bengals couldn't stop them.
Speaking at his weekly news conference Sept. 11, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh praised the physical play of the line -- which featured Ronnie Stanley at left tackle, Hurst, Jensen, All-Pro Marshal Yanda at right guard and Austin Howard at right tackle.
"They haven't been together much as a group," Harbaugh said, "but they've been practicing really hard individually. Then they practiced as a group the last week or so, but they played well. They were very physical ... very minimal assignment errors."
The Ravens stressed throughout the offseason the need to get bigger and stronger up front, which is one reason why the Ravens traded away center Jeremy Zuttah, and Jensen (6-foot-4, 319 pounds), who is bigger and stronger, took over at center. Howard (6-7, 330) was signed Aug. 4 as a free agent to take over at right tackle, shifting Hurst to left guard. But for much of the preseason, Hurst played left tackle in place of an injured Stanley.
Protecting the 17-point lead in the second half, the Ravens made the most of senior offensive assistant/tight ends coach Greg Roman's influence on the running game. The results weren't spectacular -- the Ravens averaged 3.7 yards a carry during the game -- but the Ravens wore down the Bengals and the clock and finished the game with 157 rushing yards. Quarterback Joe Flacco was sacked just once, though he attempted only 17 passes, three in the second half.
To be sure, there were some issues. Stanley and Hurst were whistled for false starts, although Harbaugh called those "operational" things that "we need to get better at, and we should get better at that. We are working together with an offense that is new to us, and the group hasn't been together."
More troubling, Harbaugh said, were the holding penalties -- three of them on Jensen, one on tight end Nick Boyle -- that wiped out decent gains.
"The holding penalties, to me, are technique penalties," Harbaugh said. "That should not happen. They were all legitimate calls, and we just have to clean that up, and we have to block better in those situations."
Still, considering that until taking the field at Paul Brown Stadium this configuration had not lined up in game action at all, there was much to be encouraged about.
"We were going against a really good front [vs. Cincinnati]," Harbaugh said, "so, I thought those guys stepped up and played really good football."
RAVENS RE-SIGN WOODRUM: The Ravens have re-signed quarterback Josh Woodrum to the practice squad and released tight end Ryan Malleck from the practice squad. Woodrum was one of the stars of the Ravens' preseason but did not make the 53-man roster as the Ravens opted to keep two quarterbacks in Flacco and Ryan Mallett. Woodrum was then claimed off waivers by the Cleveland Browns but was released four days later. With the Ravens this preseason, Woodrum completed 25 of 36 passes for 321 yards, with two touchdowns, no interceptions and a team-best 115.6 passer rating. He also ran for two touchdowns for the Ravens, who finished the preseason 4-0.
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