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Ravens' offensive line shaping up nicely

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Ravens' offensive line shaping up nicely

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) The Baltimore Ravens can only hope the performance they received from their offensive line last weekend is an indication of what lies ahead for a unit that relies on an unexpected mixture of experience and youth.

Baltimore amassed a season-high 533 yards Sunday in a 33-14 rout of the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants. Joe Flacco had enough time in the pocket to throw for 309 yards and two touchdowns, the Ravens converted 11 of 18 third downs and Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce each topped 100 yards rushing.

Flacco, Rice and wide receivers Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin are the big names on Baltimore's offense, but success in the playoffs could depend on what happens up front.

``The offensive line continues to improve,'' coach John Harbaugh said. ``It's a young group, so that's something that we really expect to have happen.''

Rookie right tackle Kelechi Osemele and second-year left guard Jah Reid have played well enough to force longtime NFL veterans Bryant McKinnie and Bobbie Williams to the sideline. Coming into the season, McKinnie and Williams had a combined 277 starts and compared to zero for Osemele and Reid.

So perhaps the line could be forgiven for its inconsistent performance in the weeks leading up to Sunday's masterpiece - a dominating performance that provided the Ravens with their second straight AFC North title.

``It's just a matter of having confidence in our guys,'' guard Marshal Yanda said. ``There's no magical formula. We didn't reinvent the wheel. It's just football.''

The offensive line yielded 34 sacks in the first 14 games before holding New York without one Sunday. Flacco, who had six turnovers in the previous three games, was flawless against the Giants.

``Anytime you pass protect the way that we did against a team that can rush the passer like the New York Giants, that's a big plus,'' Harbaugh said. ``The run blocking was good. We rushed for a lot of yards, and it's because those guys were very physical up front.''

Baltimore (10-5) hopes to ride the momentum into Sunday's regular-season finale against Cincinnati (9-6) before heading into the playoffs.

Yanda, Reid, Osemele, 36-year-old center Matt Birk and fourth-year left tackle Michael Oher make up an offensive front that has endured a bit of shuffling since September.

Ramon Harewood began the season at left guard after spending his first two NFL seasons in injured reserve. Harewood took a seat on the bench after five weeks and was replaced by Williams, who stayed there until Reid made his first NFL start on Nov. 18 in Pittsburgh.

When Yanda missed the Dec. 16 game against Denver, Williams took his place.

Now, finally, the unit appears set. Plus, Harbaugh has the luxury of summoning rookie center Gino Gradkowski or two solid veterans in case of emergency.

``We probably have more depth in the offensive line than we have had in quite a while,'' the coach said. ``We have some veterans that can step in and play. Bobbie has done a real nice job when he's been in there. And of course, Bryant McKinnie hasn't had a chance, because the tackles have been so healthy, but Bryant's a guy that is going to be very valuable for us here down the stretch if something happens. That's definitely a blessing for us.''

Rice is exceptional once he gets past the line of scrimmage, and while fullback Vonta Leach has proven to be an exceptional escort through the hole, nothing happens if the line can't create a void in the defense.

``Those guys, they work very hard. They are the hardest working group in the building,'' Rice said. ``They meet, they work, they just work and work. One thing I like about our line is that we're athletic, and we've got guys that can do multiple things. You don't see tackles moving as fast as our tackles. Then we've got our inside guys who are big and physical guys, along with the leadership of Matt Birk. Those guys really got the job done.''

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: Ravens place Marquise Brown, Jaylon Ferguson on reserve/NFI list

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: Ravens place Marquise Brown, Jaylon Ferguson on reserve/NFI list

With training camp just six days away, here is the latest news surrounding the Baltimore Ravens.

1. Ian Rapoport reported that the Ravens have placed Marquise Brown, Jaylon Ferguson and two others on the reserve/NFI list. He later added that Brown is still recovering from Lisfranc surgery but is "progressing well" and Ferguson is dealing with a "minor hamstring" injury.

2. The entire Baltimore Ravens class is officially under contract after the signing of wide receiver Miles Boykin. Boykin was a third-round pick out of Notre Dame.

3. Michael Vick joined The Sports Junkies on 106.7 The Fan Friday morning and when asked which young quarterbacks in the NFL most emulate his style, he answered: "Lamar Jackson" along with Kyler Murray and Cam Newton.

Looking Ahead:

July 24: Ravens training camp begins. Rookies are set to report a week earlier on Wednesday, July 17. 

The 2019 NFL schedule is set! See the Baltimore Ravens defend the AFC North at M&T Bank Stadium this season. Get your tickets now at www.BaltimoreRavens.com/tickets.

Credit: Rotoworld and Baltimore Ravens for news points.

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A big Year 2 ahead, Lamar Jackson isn’t worried about Madden ratings

A big Year 2 ahead, Lamar Jackson isn’t worried about Madden ratings

The number eight is sports royalty in the city of Baltimore thanks to Cal Ripken Jr.

If Lamar Jackson has the career many are hoping for, he’ll be another reason for that one day down the road.

For now, he’s a young, athletic quarterback entering his second season in Charm City. But his successful rookie year hasn’t been reflected in Madden NFL 20’s newest ratings.

Jackson came in with an overall rating of 76, tied for 24th among all quarterbacks. Unsurprisingly, his athleticism is highly-regarded, as he leads all signal-callers in speed, acceleration, agility, and elusiveness.

Questions abound about his throwing abilities, leading to the low rating. But that’s not a concern for Jackson himself.

“I can’t feel no way,” the quarterback told media members prior to throwing out the first pitch at the Orioles-Nationals game Wednesday night. “You know, I don’t make Madden. That’s them. But I feel like our team, we’re going to show ‘em this season.”

Jackson continued to praise the Ravens roster. When asked about the high ratings for teammates like Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and Earl Thomas, Jackson put his thoughts quite succinctly: “We look stacked!”

Of course, with speed and acceleration ratings like Jackson has, it’s fun to imagine how he might fit in on a baseball diamond as well.

“Whew, somewhere in the middle, to make a play,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde decided when asked where the Ravens quarterback might play on his roster.

“I’m looking forward to meeting him. I’m a big football fan, so watched him play a lot. And if he wanted to play center field or up the middle, it’d be great,” Hyde continued.

The speedy quarterback agreed, though it came with a caveat.

“Probably,” Jackson quickly answered when asked about his best fit being center field. “But you know, I’m the Ravens QB right now, so I’m good.”

He doesn’t know what his walk-up song would be if he played baseball, but Jackson was definitive about one thing at least: his hot dog preferences.

“I don’t really eat mustard,” he emphasized. “So I just put ketchup, relish...I just go from there. Pretty standard.”

When he’s not eating hot dogs, Jackson is working hard to build chemistry with his new receiving corps, and he seemed optimistic about the results it will bring on the field.

“Looking pretty good,” he described. “You’ll have to see for yourself.”

Knowing how many dual Orioles and Ravens fans there are in Baltimore, Jackson was also happy to provide a little hope as the city’s attention starts to shift from baseball to football. He gave a message to O’s fans who have sat through months of losing baseball and are looking to the Ravens to bring winning back to the city.

“Look forward to us coming out and balling,” he said. “Can’t say too much right now, [the] season’s not here!”

The Ravens season will be here soon enough, and when it is, Jackson will be ready to go out and show both local and national fans what he can do, regardless of what his Madden rating says.

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