The future is now for Ben Grubbs.
Grubbs, the rookie drafted by the Ravens to line up as a starting guard for many years, has split time with current starter Chris Chester at right guard for the team's first two games this season.
"I definitely hold my own out there," said Grubbs, who played about 25 snaps in Sunday's 20-13 win over the New York Jets.
"When I go out there, I don't think of myself as being a rookie. I think about playing hard for my teammates and playing hard for the guys to my left and to my right. Thus far, I've been doing pretty good. There's definitely room for improvement, and I just want to keep playing hard."
That is what the organization envisioned when it selected Grubbs with the 29th overall pick in April. Widely praised for his power and technique, the 6-foot-3, 315-pound Grubbs immediately emerged as the backup to Chester, leapfrogging such veterans as former starter Keydrick Vincent and Brian Rimpf.
Coach Brian Billick acknowledged inserting Grubbs at right guard to get him some experience in a regular-season game.
"To continue to get the growth of Ben Grubbs at the guard position," Billick said yesterday during his day-after conference. "This line is one that's going to have to serve us for the whole year and as a group move in and out of different rotations. ... So they've got to get comfortable with that group moving around a little bit. So far, they've done a nice job with it."
Chester, the team's second-round selection in 2006, has started both games at right guard but rotated with Grubbs in both games. Chester, who some have suggested could eventually replace Mike Flynn at center, said he had no qualms about splitting time with the rookie.
"We've got a lot of depth and a lot of talent," said Chester, who played about 45 snaps Sunday. "So we just want to get everybody in there and give them a chance to play and use that to our advantage. More than anything, for a season, it is an advantage to keep both of us fresh, and that's definitely a positive."
Grubbs, who started two games at right guard during the preseason, said the sudden change in the tempo of the regular season is startling.
"It's a lot faster than practice, but at the same time, I think practice helps me out a lot because I'm going against a great defense," he said. "That's probably the big difference - the speed, the intensity. It's live bullets out there, so you've got to keep your head on a swivel and play hard."
The Ravens committed only three false-start penalties Sunday, but Billick accused the Jets' defensive players of calling out the snap count to confuse the offense.
"Their defensive line and linebackers did a very, very effective job of illegally simulating the snap count," Billick said. "They did it the whole game long. [That] needs to be caught. I saw it called in a game earlier in the day.
"That's not an excuse by any stretch of the imagination, but it is illegal. Our guys have to deal with it, but that was a couple of the incidences there. Now it can sound like an excuse, but the fact is it was a fact, and I don't know how to help my linemen with that."
Billick singled out running back Willis McGahee for his performance in Sunday's victory.
McGahee, who carried the ball 26 times and was 3 yards short of his 15th career 100-yard rushing game, recorded three first downs and impressed Billick with his ability to break arm tackles and power through piles at the line of scrimmage.
"He runs with a physicality, a strength that I don't know that I was aware of," Billick said. "There were a couple of plays in there where he just literally pushed the pile or took two or three guys back on his own. I don't know that I was aware that he was capable of that."
Some of the offensive schemes used by the Arizona Cardinals - the Ravens' opponent Sunday - might be familiar to the team's coaches and defensive players.
"I have not looked at Arizona yet," Billick said. "[But] I can assume that they're doing a number of things that will be familiar to us from Ken's time in Pittsburgh."