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Ravens hope return of starting offensive line means return to winning

Ravens hope return of starting offensive line means return to winning

OWINGS MILLS – With right guard Marshal Yanda and left tackle Ronnie Stanley expected to play Sunday against the Steelers, the Ravens should have their starting offensive line intact for the first time since Week 3.

Does that mean the Ravens’ offensive issues are solved? Not necessarily, but it’s a good place to start.

“In the NFL, it starts up front winning the line of scrimmage,” said Yanda, a five-time Pro Bowler who has missed the last two games with a shoulder injury. “When we do that, we usually have success. When we don’t do that and don’t protect the quarterback, things usually don’t go our way.”

The Ravens have a myriad of things to solve offensively, but consider this. They are 3-0 with Stanley in the lineup, and 0-4 without him. The Ravens drafted Stanley with the sixth pick overall, and when healthy, he has lived up to his billing as solid protector for Joe Flacco’s blindside.

Flacco doesn’t like making excuses, or throwing his teammates under the bus. But with Stanley back, Yanda back, and Alex Smith moving back to left guard, Flacco’s comfort level in the pocket Sunday could lead to him performing better than he has recently.

“It’s just nice to see guys healthy,” Flacco said. “They want to be part of the team and contribute, so it’s nice to have them back out there for sure.”

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Ronnie Stanley back at practice, but a host of key Ravens players still out

Ronnie Stanley back at practice, but a host of key Ravens players still out

OWINGS MILLS – Left tackle Ronnie Stanley (foot) was back at practice Thursday, but a host of other Ravens were not.

Those missing from practice included wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. (ankle), inside linebacker C. J. Mosley (hamstring), right guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder), right tackle Rick Wagner (thigh), outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (foot), and punt returner Devin Hester (thigh). Meanwhile, backup safety Kendrick Lewis left the practice field early with what appeared to be an injury, while wide receiver Mike Wallace was still wearing a non-contact practice jersey.

Stanley has missed the last two games, both of them Ravens' defeats. Getting Stanley back to protect Joe Flacco's blind side would be a plus for the Ravens. But if the other injured players don't return this weekend, here are some issues the Ravens will face heading into Sunday’s road game against the Giants:

1. Not having Smith would make it more difficult for the Ravens to end their offensive funk.

Smith is the team’s most productive receiver (27 catches, 310 yards, one TD), and Sunday will be Marty Mornhinweg’s first game as offensive coordinator. If Smith can’t go, other receivers will have to step up.

2. Dumervil’s lingering foot problems are a bad sign.

Dumervil missed the first four games, and he did not have a sack in the two games he played. Simply put, Dumervil has not looked like himself. He may simply be too injured to play up to his normal standards.

3. The right side of the offensive line could be a problem.

If neither Yanda nor Wagner play, the Ravens must figure out who to start at right guard and right tackle. They signed two offensive linemen this week – Vladimir Ducasse and Billy Turner. But James Hurst, who struggled at left tackle earlier this season, may be forced into service at right tackle.

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Ravens' Ronnie Stanley question mark for Week 4 after missing third straight practice

Ravens' Ronnie Stanley question mark for Week 4 after missing third straight practice

OWINGS MILLS – Ravens coach John Harbaugh would not rule out rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley for Sunday’s game against the Raiders, although Stanley (foot) missed his third consecutive practice Friday.

James Hurst remained the likely replacement for Stanley if he could not play. Stanley has been very solid in the first three games of his NFL career, and his presence protecting quarterback Joe Flacco's blindside would be missed.

Stanley was not in the locker room after practice. Asked if Stanley’s injury could linger for a significant period, Harbaugh said, “I don’t see it that way, from what I’ve been told. I still think he has a chance for Sunday. You’ll see the (injury) report coming out later, but we’re not going to rule him out.”

Meanwhile, left guard Alex Lewis (concussion) was back at practice Friday, which was really a walkthrough, after missing practice on Wednesday and Thursday. Harbaugh sounded optimistic Lewis would play if he continued to pass concussion protocol.

“I think Lewis is fine if he cleared the concussion (protocol)," Harbaugh said. "It wouldn’t be a game-time (decision) in his case, if that’s true, and I’m assuming it is.”

If Lewis could not play, Ryan Jensen would likely be the starting left guard.

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