Flacco still not ready, but offensive line shows promise

The Baltimore Sun

Ravens rookie quarterback Joe Flacco continues to make progress, but he should be the starter against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 7 only if Troy Smith and Kyle Boller aren't healthy enough to play.

Flacco played with more confidence last night in the Ravens' 10-9 loss, and he made some strong throws downfield, but he is still not ready.

When the preseason started, Flacco was mesmerized by the speed of the game and he couldn't even find his primary receiver.

He is up to par on that now but has trouble finding his secondary receivers. His feet start getting nervous, and those shoulders start turning.

Flacco completed eight of 13 passes last night for 72 yards, playing a little more than a quarter, but two of his first few passes could have been intercepted and returned for touchdowns.

If the Ravens are to have any success early, their best chance is with a mobile quarterback who can roll out and run bootlegs and waggles. At this time, they can't have a pure drop-back quarterback.

Line coming together

The more time it had on the field, the better the Ravens' offensive line played last night.

As the game progressed, Flacco was getting more time to throw, and rookie running back Ray Rice seemed quicker in finding holes.

It will be interesting to see how this group develops. There's a lot of athletic talent in this offensive line, and any major signs of improvement will probably come in the second half of the season.

Offensive tackles Jared Gaither and Adam Terry didn't seem bothered by their ankle injuries.

"It felt great being out there because it's been so long since I've had live action in a game - over seven months," Gaither said. "It felt good to work the kinks out. It was important for our starting offensive line to go out there together and get some valuable time before next week's opener."

Stover gives it a try

The play of the game belonged to Ravens kicker Matt Stover. Falcons running back Thomas Brown was returning a kickoff and broke free up the middle of the field early in the second quarter.

Stover attempted a tackle, but Brown just nudged Stover aside and kept running.

In the past, Stover has made some touchdown-saving tackles. We're assuming that since it was preseason, Stover didn't want to get hurt.

Sparse crowd

There were about 25,000 to 30,000 fans in attendance last night.

There was a light drizzle, and it's the last week of preseason. And Ray Lewis, Chris McAlister, Samari Rolle, Ed Reed, Kelly Gregg and Willis McGahee didn't play. I wouldn't have come either.

Still fading

As much as some things change, some remain the same. Early in the second quarter, on a third-and-four from the Falcons' 6, Flacco threw a fade in the right corner of the end zone that fell through the outstretched arms of wide receiver Demetrius Williams. Out came Stover to kick a 25-yard field goal.

This was reminiscent of the past nine years when you-know-who was the head coach and the fade went to Clarence Moore or Todd Heap.

McGahee not on market

McGahee's name has been tossed around the NFL as possible trade bait, especially because several teams are interested in running backs.

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said he has heard the talk and that McGahee is not and has not been on the market.

Figurs has best showing

Now that the preseason is over, the player who came of out it looking the best was second-year wide receiver Yamon Figurs.

Last season, he lost his concentration fielding punts when opposing teams got near him. He often didn't hit full stride until after he got beyond the hole.

Now, Figurs is accelerating going into the hole and full throttle coming out of it. He also has been successful as the outside player covering punts.

Receivers shed rust

Fourth-year receiver Mark Clayton emerged as a factor in a game for the first time in quite a while. Clayton had four catches for 38 yards.

It was also nice to see tight end Daniel Wilcox (three catches, 32 yards) and Williams (one, 22) back on the field for the first time this season.

"It was important to get playing time for Demetrius, Todd, Jared Gaither and more snaps for Adam Terry," offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. "That means a lot going into the opener. They knocked some of the rust off."


"We were pleased early. We got some three-and-outs. Our second group was disappointing at the end of the second quarter. You have to earn a Ravens' helmet. Some of those guys will make our roster decisions easier." - Rex Ryan, defensive coordinator

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