Ravens unveil new-look offensive line

Cloaked in secrecy until the days and hours before kickoff, the Ravens unveiled a reconfigured offensive line Monday night.

By instituting a youth movement, the Ravens have transformed what was one of the oldest groups in the league.

During a 44-13 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night at M&T Bank Stadium, the defending AFC North champions started rookie Kelechi Osemele at right tackle, shifted Michael Oher to left tackle and had converted tackle Ramon Harewood to left guard, replacing veteran Bobbie Williams.

Former Pro Bowl left tackle Bryant McKinnie, 32, was benched with Oher now protecting the blind side of quarterback Joe Flacco.

And the strategy was effective for the most part as Flacco had sufficient time to complete 21 of 29 passes for 299 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 128.4 passer rating.

"It went really great," said Osemele, a second-round draft pick. "The communication was great. We were out there being physical. We set the tempo early and I felt really good about it. I know I had a few missed assignments, but I had the best game I ever had as far as my technique. We're just going to continue to get better."

Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice ran for 68 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries.

"It's really fun for me, I barely got hit," Rice said. "The offensive line is very athletic."

A former sixth-round draft pick from Morehouse, Harewood spent the previous two seasons on injured reserve and underwent knee surgeries.

Now, he's suddenly a starter after impressing the coaching staff with his performance against the St. Louis Rams in the final preseason game.

"There's still a lot of room for improvement," Harewood said. "I think I held my own. I was definitely hungry after being hurt the past couple years."

Although he was surprisingly replaced in the lineup, Williams said he's not upset about the decision.

"Whatever goes on, it's about the team," Williams said. "We all play a role. The main thing happened, we won. It's just how things roll. It's a big team picture. Everybody is good with that. It's a long season, it's a long season."

The Ravens restructured McKinnie's contract last week, cutting his salary from $3.2 million to $2.2 million. He thought initially that he might make up the lost $1 million through playing-time incentive clauses, but that won't be the case if the Ravens make these changes permanent.

"I knew this was happening," McKinnie said. "I'm taking it fine. It's definitely a long season, I just have to do what I'm supposed to do. I'm a team player."

It was a tough assignment for the Ravens' offensive line, which allowed three sacks. Two of those sacks were surrendered to Bengals Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins.

It only took a few minutes for Atkins to establish his territory against Ravens veteran center Matt Birk.

Atkins steamrolled Birk on a bull-rush up the middle as he lined up directly across from the six-time Pro Bowl center and pushed him into the backfield to sack Flacco.

Birk had trouble in the AFC title game with Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork.

Birk, 36, is the elder statesman on the line now that four starters are under age 28, including Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda, 27, Oher, 26, Harewood, 25, and Osemele, 23.

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