It's next, next, next man up for Ravens offensive line after best game of year
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens offensive line put together its best performance of the season in Sunday's 30-17 win over the Oakland Raiders, and there really wasn't much time to celebrate.
The Ravens need to start their third right guard of the season, and it's only Week 6 of the regular season. When Baltimore faces the Chicago Bears on Sunday, it's the unenviable situation of next, next, next man up.
"It just doesn't matter," coach John Harbaugh said about how the line has played despite the lack of cohesion. "It is not something we think about. It is not something we quantify. We don't waste any energy thinking about that. You just go and get ready for the next game."
Only the New York Giants wide receivers have been hit by injuries as much as Baltimore's offensive line. In Week 2, six-time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda was lost for the season after fracturing his ankle. Three weeks later, Matt Skura (who went from the practice squad to the starting lineup) sprained his knee in Oakland. That means rookie fifth-round pick Jermaine Eluemunor must replace Skura, who was replacing Yanda.
This is all in addition to Baltimore losing three other interior linemen for the year: starting left guard Alex Lewis (shoulder), guard-center John Urschel (retirement) and rookie fourth-round pick Nico Siragusa (knee).
That's what made Sunday's game against Khalil Mack and the Raiders so much more impressive. The Ravens did not give up a sack for the first time all season and allowed pressure on just 11.5 percent of Joe Flacco's dropbacks, the second-best mark by an offense this week, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Entering Week 4, the Raiders ranked ninth in pressure percentage (29.2 percent).
"They played awesome," Flacco said.
This is a much-different sounding Flacco from the previous week, when he acknowledged that he didn't trust the pocket enough to let big plays develop downfield. On Sunday, his average time of 2.29 seconds in the pocket was tied for his longest rate of the season.
Mack, the reigning defensive player of the year, had no disrupted dropbacks for the first time all season. Bruce Irvin had just two assisted tackles, marking the first time he didn’t record at least one solo tackle since joining the Raiders in 2016.
It's why the Ravens offensive line was named to ESPN Stats & Information's NFL Unsung Heroes Honor Roll this week.
"Especially the last two weeks, Joe has been taking a little bit of heat," right tackle Austin Howard said. "We take that personal. We still aren't done, we have a lot more to go."
The Ravens will try to protect Flacco with an offensive line that consists of left tackle Ronnie Stanley, the only returning starter from last year; right guard James Hurst and center Ryan Jensen, both of whom are first-year starters at those positions; Eluemunor, who was a one-year starter at Texas A&M; and Howard, a free-agent pickup after being cut by the Raiders before the start of training camp.
"No matter who we're playing, we take a lot of pride in making those holes for the running back and keeping our quarterback clean," Howard said. "So we feel good about that. But with that being said, we know that we can't just stay the same, we have to get better each week."
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