A few times every game, guard Edwin Mulitalo will check with tackle Jonathan Ogden to make sure everything is satisfactory.
It is an old habit Mulitalo won't break, even though he is in his fourth year and has played in 40 regular-season games alongside Ogden.
"I still feel like I have to meet his expectations," Mulitalo said. "Whenever I'm playing, I always want to be as good as he is. It is a team sport, and we have to work together, but when I throw a block or after a protection, I look to him to see if everything is all right because he will be in the Hall of Fame. So when I get his approval, that feels good to me."
With Mulitalo set to play his fourth game this season at left guard against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday after a failed two-game experiment at right tackle, the Ravens will again showcase one of the most durable and productive tandems in the NFL.
The Ravens are 28-12 when Mulitalo and Ogden play next to each other. Neither has missed more than two games the previous two years.
"The communication, that subtle understanding of how that guy next to you plays, that's all part of an offensive line playing well," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "And that left side is obviously a strength for us that way."
Against a relatively inexperienced Jaguars defensive line that will be without end Tony Brackens, expect the Ravens to run at Jacksonville's front seven (which includes rookie tackle John Henderson along with end Rob Meier in place of Brackens).
And expect Mulitalo and Ogden, as they usually do, to lead the rushing attack at important times in the game.
Jamal Lewis ran for 187 yards two weeks ago against Cleveland and 75 yards along with two touchdowns Sunday at Indianapolis. With the Ravens facing a fourth-and-one in the loss to the Colts, quarterback Chris Redman faked a handoff to Alan Ricard up the middle and pitched it to Lewis, who trotted in the end zone untouched from the 5 behind the left side and tied the game at 13.
Lewis' second touchdown came on a hole so huge created by Mulitalo and Ogden that he went in virtually untouched from 5 yards out in the fourth quarter and gave the Ravens a one-point lead.
"The biggest thing is confidence," Lewis said. "You're confident running to that side because of the experience and everything. They were here when I was playing in 2000, so I'm comfortable going to that side. That's not taking anything away from the right side, but it is a confidence level as far as going to J.O. and Mulitalo. We make a lot of yards over there behind them."
At times, the yards come even when the defense realizes the Ravens' tendency to turn to the left side in crucial situations. Still, offensive line coach Jim Colletto said the offense is not to the point where it can run behind Mulitalo and Ogden no matter what. Few professional teams can be so bold.
"In college football, yeah, but in pro football I'm not sure you do that all the time," Colletto said. "The quality of the player you play against has a big bearing on that as well. It would be great to say, `All right, we're running here whether you know it or not.' Sometimes you do that, sometimes you don't. It all depends on who your doing it against."
In the three games since Mulitalo returned to left guard, the Ravens have averaged 130 total rushing yards (as opposed to 66 in the first two games). For that, Mulitalo does not mind going back under the watch of Ogden.
"I'll do something wrong and look at J.O. He'll give me a nudge to get better," Mulitalo said. "But definitely, playing with him the last three years, we do have a lot of communication that comes with that time.
"I have never experienced any other tackle, but I'm a better player because I've been able to play next to him."
The same could be said for Ogden, who has been to five consecutive Pro Bowls.
"Edwin's definitely the most consistent guy I've had," Ogden said. "Before Edwin, I went through one or two guards a year. Now I know how he is, know how he's going to pass the linemen off to me. I know how he's going to set the guys up if we are going to do a double-team block. We don't have to think about what each other is going to do. All we need to worry about is what's going on on the other side of the ball.
"The first year, I was trying to get him to understand what is going on. I still give him a little advice here and there, but he's grown up. He's on his own now."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun