O-line takes step in the right direction

Fresh off a preseason opener which saw the Ravens’ offensive line allow six sacks in a loss to the Eagles, that unit appeared to make significant progress in Friday’s win over the Chiefs.

Playing without starting center Matt Birk (knee surgery) and right guard Marshal Yanda (back spasms), the Ravens allowed just two sacks against Kansas City, neither of which came with starting quarterback Joe Flacco in the game.

Ravens linemen were flagged for three pre-snap penalties, including one called on (who else?) left tackle Michael Oher, but overall, head coach John Harbaugh seemed pleased with the effort put forth by his guys in the trenches.

“I thought they held up well,” Harbaugh said. “I thought they did a good job. They worked well together. The communication was there - probably better than what we have seen in practice - and that’s a good thing.

“Part of why you make practice so hard - the idea, in terms of making practice so challenging, so fast, so competitive with our defense - is that you want the game to actually be a slower experience for him. You don’t want the game to be faster for him. I thought that kind of showed up in the way those guys played.”

Friday’s starting alignment featured a new look due to Yanda’s injury and the Ravens’ decision to move Oniel Cousins from right tackle to right guard.

With Cousins shifting inside, rookie Jah Reid got the start at right tackle, and he held up well in more than three quarters of action. Reid is a physical presence, but the third-round pick also showed his athleticism squaring off against Chiefs Pro Bowl outside linebacker Tamba Hali, a guy with a rare mix of size and quickness.

“I feel like I improved,” Reid said after the game. “I know there’s a long way to go, and I just need to keep working. I want to help this team the best way I can, and I know it’s going to take a lot of hard work in practice to get there.”

Harbaugh agrees with that assessment, and says he’s seeing constant improvement in Reid’s game.

“Yeah, absolutely. He has an understanding of the schemes and everything else,” Harbaugh said. “He’s obviously, physically, very capable of playing the position. It’s just a matter of transferring that knowledge into that part of the brain that just reacts. That’s a process. That takes a little bit of time. He’s working hard at it and he is doing well.”

As for Cousins, as I mentioned yesterday, the Ravens have decided to leave the 2008 third-round pick at guard, where he had decent success against Kansas City. The UTEP product often looked physically overmatched at tackle, and his footwork was an issue, but at guard, he doesn’t have to cover as much ground.

“I think we will put him in there at guard, leave him in there and see how he does,” Harbaugh said. “He was comfortable in there. He is a big, strong man. That bodes well at guard. He is a good bender. He has got a lot of reach, and it worked out for him in there.”

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