EARLY BIRD: Waking up with the Ravens, Saturday, Aug. 24, as they return to the practice field.
Two-minute topic: Is the offensive line gelling fast enough to be ready by Week 1?
More and more, it appears Gino Gradkowski will win the starting job at center over A. Q. Shipley. Gradkowski started Thursday and played most of the game. The rest of the line is set – Bryant McKinnie at left tackle, Kelechi Osemele at left guard, Marshal Yanda at right guard, and Michael Oher at right tackle.
The return of Yanda clearly had a positive impact Thursday night. The Ravens had 169 yards rushing and averaged 4.6 per carry, led by Ray Rice (62 yards, 16 carries). The opening drive was the best the Ravens’ offense has looked this preseason – nine plays, 69 yards, capped by Rice’s one-yard touchdown run.
It was Yanda’s first game since offseason shoulder surgery, and the Ravens need his experience and Pro Bowl talent. Yanda probably won’t play in the preseason finale against the Rams, but he feels good about shaking off some rust before the regular season.
“Right away I felt really strong,” Yanda said. “We had four turnovers and everybody’s a little mad. But I’m feeling good that I’m feeling strong.”
The line certainly has things to address. The Panthers ran a few defensive stunts that gave the Ravens issues in pass protection, and Joe Flacco was sacked three times. That is something the Ravens want to get straight before traveling to Denver.
“They did a lot of things that gave us some trouble,” Gradkowski said. “We have to see what it was and make adjustments.”
Chemistry is important for any offensive line, and last year, the Ravens’ line didn’t play its best football until the postseason. This year, the Ravens’ offensive line hopes to start much faster, and the return of Yanda is a step in that direction.
Morning thought: “We have a lot of things to work on. But it felt really good to get out there and run the ball. We got things going on that first drive. We proved that we can move the ball down the field. We just can’t make costly turnovers,” Ray Rice on the Ravens’ offense in Thursday night’s loss to the Panthers.