Late For Work 8/15: Where Will Ravens Get O-Line Help?

Plus how Evans affects rookie WRs and Houshmandzadeh set to visit Patriots.

Posted by Ryan Mink on Monday, August 15th, 2011 at 8:57 am | Categories: Late For Work, Ryan Mink

Where Will Ravens Get O-Line Help?

Over the weekend, ESPN AFC North blogger James Walker got this question from fan Knight91:

“What’s up with the Baltimore Ravens’ O-line?”

Following last Thursday’s first preseason game in Philadelphia, it’s a hot topic at the moment.

Baltimore’s line surrendered six sacks, and the offense converted just three of 12 third downs. It wasn’t the best sign after quarterback Joe Flacco was dropped a career-high 40 times last year and the rushing attack had the fifth-fewest yards per carry in the league.

“It’s not a good situation,” Walker responded. “The tackles are really struggling. Michael Oher doesn’t look to be a natural left tackle and Baltimore is searching for answers at right tackle. Center Matt Birk also is hurt in the middle. There are no easy answers to fix this group.”

That has left’s Joe Platania wondering, “is it time to look outside the organization for offensive line help?

Platania breaks down the options still available on the market:

“At center, the name Casey Rabach has not gotten far from anyone’s lips,” he writes. “Having failed a Ravens’ physical (shoulder) earlier during training camp, the conventional wisdom is that once he properly heals, the former Washington Redskin can take another exam and sign a free-agent contract to return to the Ravens for the first time in six years.”

Then there’s guard, where Baltimore could be looking at a backup to replace the departed Chris Chester. The CSN scribe says a cheap and intriguing option would be signing former Steelers veteran Trai Essex.

“To date, there have been no trades or free-agent signings within the AFC North Division, so Essex’s defection, if it happens, would cause a sensation,” Platania wrote.

Last but not least, there’s tackle. Right now, the Ravens have rookie Jah Reid battling with Oniel Cousins, who has moved to guard the past two days with Marshal Yanda sidelined due to back spasms. Reid and Cousins combined for three false starts Thursday night and afterwards each said they had work to do.

“At tackle, Oakland’s Langston Walker is a nine-year man who has played 15 or more games four times during his last five seasons between the Raiders and Buffalo Bills. He helped pace a Raiders’ offense that was ranked 10th in the league,” Plantania wrote.

“Seattle’s Chester Pitts (nine years) and San Francisco’s Barry Sims (12) have been durable veterans, but they are free agents for a reason: their teams ranked in the bottom third offensively.”

How Does Evans Affect Torrey, Doss?

The Ravens made no bones about their intentions with Lee Evans. The veteran, who was acquired via trade from Buffalo, immediately stepped into the No. 2 position opposite Anquan Boldin on his first day of practice Saturday.

But the Ravens also continued to use rookie wide receivers Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss with the first team and quarterback Joe Flacco on Sunday.

In short, Baltimore isn’t going to let Evans’ addition delay the rookies’ development. The Ravens may not have to rely on Smith and Doss so soon, but they will still look to them to contribute.

“The Ravens needed a downfield threat, and landed one in the draft in speedy Torrey Smith from Maryland,” wrote ESPN’s Mel Kiper. “The added presence of Lee Evans as a deep-ball option may take pressure off Smith, but he’ll still be asked to stretch the field. Don’t be surprised if Smith becomes an early favorite for Joe Flacco.”

The Baltimore Sun’s Jamison Hensley says the addition moves Smith to No. 3 and Doss to No. 4. David Reed, who remains on the physically unable to perform list with a wrist injury, is also in the mix.

Head Coach John Harbaugh said the addition “takes the pressure off the young guys a little bit.”

“It allows them to grow at the pace that you want them to grow,” Harbaugh said. “Developing players is really important, and there’s a certain pace that you would like to adhere to if you could.”

Houshmandzadeh Visiting Pats Today

The New England Patriots are scheduled to host and work out Ravens free agent wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh today, reports the Boston Herald’s Ian Rappaport.

Houshmandzadeh, 33, could once again team up with former Cincinnati Bengals teammate Chad Ochocinco. “That depends on how he looks tomorrow,” Rappaport wrote last night.

Housh is coming off a year in which he caught 30 passes for 398 yards and three touchdowns in Baltimore. Back in June, he told the Carroll County Times that he would be open to coming back, but didn’t feel the desire was mutual.

“I know people will say I can’t play no more,” Houshmandzadeh said. “If I get to the right team, I’ll shock a lot of people.”

With Evans now in the fold, the Ravens already have a number of wide receivers bidding for time on the depth chart. Baltimore wants to get rookies Smith and Doss on the field.

Speaking of Housh, Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo had this hilarious tweet about the wideout yesterday: “Tj houshmandzadeh at his best #prettyinpink” Looks like the photo was taken at Paul Brown Stadium.

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