By Aaron Wilson, The Baltimore Sun
9:41 PM PDT, August 23, 2012
Ravens left offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie reacted quickly, cutting off the speed rush of Jacksonville Jaguars rookie defensive end Andre Branch to anchor the line of scrimmage.
Rookie offensive guard Kelechi Osemele generated some push inside at left guard to move defensive linemen off the football.
And veteran Bobbie Williams shifted back to his natural right guard spot with Pro Bowl offensive guard Marshal Yanda held out of the game with a minor leg injury as a precautionary measure.
Although there were some lapses, including center Matt Birk getting shoved into the pocket while Branch ran around McKinnie for a sack and defensive tackle Terrance Knighton busting past McKinnie and Osemele to drop Flacco for another sack, it was a solid outing overall for the Ravens' offensive line.
"I feel like everybody played pretty good," McKinnie said. "It was pretty solid. We still got some work to do."
Flacco had sufficient time to connect with nine different targets, completing 27 of 36 passes for 266 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for a 102.3 passer rating.
"I think we've got a pretty good group here," Birk said. "Some guys get moved around, but we understand that's part of the deal. We've got a mostly veteran group, a group that's willing to work. Whoever is playing where, we just continue to work hard together."
With the exception of Yanda being out and Williams playing out of position, this was essentially a preview of how the line will likely be configured to begin the regular season.
After a shaky start to camp where he showed up five days late and roughly 15 pounds over his target weight, McKinnie appears to have regained his job.
That sends Michael Oher back to his old assignment: starting at right tackle.
McKinnie expressed confidence that he will regain the left tackle position.
"Yeah, I think so," McKinnie said. "I think I made a run."
Plus, Williams' surgically repaired right ankle is no longer troubling him as much and is projected to start on the left side.
Osemele, an aggressive second-round draft pick who was flagged once for holding, is an injury or a veteran's poor performance away from becoming a regular starter.
"We protected Joe and opened up some things for Ray Rice," Williams said. "It was something we can build on."
Cook breaks leg, out for the year
Backup safety and special-teams contributor Emanuel Cook broke his right leg and was declared out for the season by coach John Harbaugh.
Cook indicated via his Twitter account that he was headed into surgery early Friday morning.
Cook was carted off the field in the third quarter after being hit hard with his leg bent in an awkward position.
"One of my favorite guys broke my leg," Harbaugh said. "He's had a really good camp, and he's one of our most valuable special teams guys from last year. So, that was tough. I think it's in the lower leg, so it's a season-ending deal."
Reserve safety Sean Considine sustained a more serious concussion after suffering a minor one last week.
"This one we will have to look at really hard," Harbaugh said.
Later in the third quarter, nickel back and Pro Bowl special-teams ace Corey Graham was helped off the field by trainers.
Graham appeared woozy and was taken into the training room for concussion testing, but it was diagnosed as a stinger.
Ngata bringing heat
Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata shot through a gap in the Jaguars' blocking scheme, picking up steam before crushing Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
That marked the first sack of a starting quarterback during the preseason for the Ravens' first-team defense.
Ngata tied a career-high with five sacks last season and has 17 for his career.
The Ravens will need as much of an interior pass rush as Ngata can provide considering that Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, the NFL Defensive Player of the Year last season, is out indefinitely with a partially torn right Achilles tendon.
During the second half, rookie outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw ended his quiet preseason with a sack of Jaguars backup quarterback Chad Henne.
Upshaw was clearly excited after his first NFL sack after registering no tackles or pressures in his debut last week against the Detroit Lions.
Webb leads defense
Signed to a $50 million contract extension during the offseason, cornerback Lardarius Webb isn't content with a featured role in pass coverage.
Webb delivered some fierce open-field tackles, racking up six stops by halftime.
A former safety at Nicholls State, Webb has always been regarded as a hard hitter despite his lack of size at 5-foot-10, 182 pounds.
He recorded a career-high 68 tackles last season in addition to a career-high five interceptions during the regular season with another three interceptions during the playoffs.
Kemoeatu starts again
For the second consecutive game, Ma'ake Kemoeatu started at nose guard ahead of regular starter Terrence Cody.
Cody has been dealing with a slight hip injury and Kemoeatu is capitalizing on the situation with some quality play inside.
Cody alternated series with Kemoeatu.
Besides Yanda, the Ravens' scratches included wide receiver David Reed (ACL surgery), linebackers Sergio Kindle (left shoulder stinger), Josh Bynes (cracked vertebrae), Darryl Blackstock (groin, ankle) and Suggs, offensive tackle (strained right calf), safety Sean Considine (concussion), tight ends Dickson (sprained right shoulder) and Dennis Pitta (broken right hand) and defensive lineman Ryan McBean (broken left
Pitta is out of his cast after undergoing surgery.
"It feels a wholelot better," Kindle said. "I think I'm pretty close."
Excused from practice all week following the death of his father, defensive end Pernell McPhee played in the game and blocked a Josh Scobee field goal attempt.
McPhee's father was 66.
"We were real close," McPhee said. "Old age, it was just his time to go. When it's your time, it's your time and you never know when it will happen."
McPhee said he appreciates the support of his teammates and coaches, including several text messages and telephone calls.
"That's one thing about this team is everybody loves everybody," McPhee said. "As soon as I got back, everybody surrounded me like I was home and put a smile on my face and said they were happy to see me back. They're proud of me that I took it like a man."
McPhee deflected Scobee's 30-yard field goal try in the third quarter.
"Actually, I just tried to penetrate through the gap," McPhee said. "I jumped and got my hand up. It wasn't nothing spectacular. I try to block every field goal, but I just got that one. I tell myself, 'Never take a play off.'"
Improvement from replacement refs?
Although the NFL's replacement officials have been almost universally criticized for a series of suspect calls
during the preseason, NFL vice president of football operations Ray Anderson said he's noticed encouraging signs of improvement.
"We expected going in, just like the players going through the preseason, that every week they would get
better," Anderson told The Sun. "The first week, we had some rough spots and we got better from the first week to the second week and we expect to get better this week, too, and on and on.
"This is the third week and it seems to me they've had a pretty solid first half. Uneventful, that's exactly what you want. That's the improvement we expect."
The NFL has instituted clinics to try to upgrade the standards of the replacement officials' work.
Meanwhile, no labor peace is in sight as the NFL and the regular referees are reportedly far apart in
negotiations as the impasse continues.
"Labor peace, absolutely, that's the goal, but it's got to be under circumstances that we believe are
reasonable and hopefully they believe are reasonable," Anderson said. "We're not there yet. Eventually, hopefully, we'll get there. In the meantime, these current officials are the ones out there and we'll work with them."
Rookie running back Bernard Pierce hurdled a Jaguars defender in the third quarter, but paid for his acrobatics as he was pummeled into the ground. ... Jaguars rookie first-round wide receiver Justin
Blackmon had success against the Ravens' secondary, catching four passes for 72 yards. That included a 27-yarder at the expense of starting cornerback Cary Williams, who's had a rough preseason following offseason surgery on his right hi
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