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Ravens looking for improved play from offensive line

The Ravens may have to wait two weeks or so for the return of six-time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda. Until then, their larger priority is shoring up an offensive line that showed its youth in Thursday night’s 17-16 preseason win over the Chicago Bears in Canton, Ohio.

In that game, the quarterback trio of Robert Griffin III, Josh Woodrum and rookie Lamar Jackson was sacked a total of eight times with Griffin and Jackson getting taken down three times each. A fourth sack of Griffin was negated by an offsides penalty on the Bears, but coach John Harbaugh made it clear that the offensive line’s play is an area that will continued to be addressed ahead of Thursday night’s preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams.

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“We’ve got to be better up front with our young offensive linemen,” Harbaugh said after Saturday’s practice. “Our quarterbacks don’t need to be under that kind of duress, and we need to block the run game better. So we expect more out of those guys.”

The offensive line is not deserving of all of the blame. Griffin’s first sack occurred in the first quarter as a result of rookie running back Mark Thompson running into rookie left tackle Justin Evans, which allowed outside linebacker Isaiah Irving to rush in untouched. And Jackson held onto the ball too long during one dropback in the fourth quarter and was promptly tackled by rookie defensive tackle Bilal Nichols.

But that mattered little to right guard Jermaine Eluemunor.

“There’s room for growth, for sure,” he said. “There were a couple good plays and a couple bad plays. As offensive linemen, we’ve got to try to make every bad play a good play. So we have a lot of room for improvement.”

At one point, the offensive line consisted of three rookies in Evans, Bradley Bozeman at center and Orlando Brown Jr. at right tackle. But center Matt Skura said youth can’t be used as an excuse.

“We still have to play better,” he said. “It’s the NFL. They don’t care if you’re a rookie. They’re going to put their best against you, and Coach Harbaugh told us, ‘You’ve got to play on-demand. When your number is called, you’ve got to go out there and perform.’ So we’ve got to step it up better, and we’re going to continue to work on it.”

Offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris was hard on the players afterward, but Eluemunor said the criticism was not unwarranted.

“If there’s anything I’ve learned, you can only make so many mistakes,” he said. “It’s not like college. Even though you’re a young kid, everyone’s a professional. So we’ve got to take it upon ourselves to learn from those mistakes and come back against the Rams on Thursday and show everybody that we’re a good O-line.”

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