- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 30, 2003

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Behind every great running back, there is usually a pretty good offensive line. The Baltimore Ravens’ offensive line deserves a little recognition because Jamal Lewis is not inflicting all that damage by himself.

Ravens running back Lewis needs 23 rushing yards Sunday against the woeful Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6) to become the first NFL back to top 1,000 yards this season. Baltimore’s line — the largest in the league — is making it possible for Lewis to threaten Eric Dickerson’s single-season NFL rushing record of 2,105 yards.

“The only thing we get to glorify is the running game,” said left guard Edwin Mulitalo. “If he does [break the record], that’s great — then we’ll all share the honor.”

Lewis’ remarkable season has been aided by the fact that four of the Ravens’ offensive linemen weigh 340 pounds or more. Right tackle Orlando Brown is the heaviest at 360.

Six-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jonathan Ogden goes 340. Bennie Anderson and Mulitalo are 345-pound guards. Center Mike Flynn is the smallest of the starting bunch at 300. Backups Ethan Brooks and Casey Rabach are 310 and 301, respectively.

The Ravens average a league-leading 181.2 rushing yards a game. There is no secret to their offense: give the 240-pound Lewis the ball. Opponents have been unable to stop him despite lining up eight and nine guys in the box.

“It’s going to be a lot more difficult because we’re playing some better defenses in the second half of the year and they are going to scheme us a little better, but so far, so good,” Flynn said.

Familiarity with one another also helps. The line is a veteran group that has played together for years. Flynn, Mulitalo and Ogden have started the past four seasons. All five starters return from last season, when Lewis rushed for 1,327 yards.

The massive 6-foot-7 Brown, a District native, is in his second tour with the Ravens after first relocating with the franchise from Cleveland in 1996 and playing with Ogden and Flynn the first time around. Right guard Anderson is starting his third consecutive season.

“I know all of them — I know how they play,” Brown said. “I haven’t played with these guys in this new offense, so that’s like a little learning process for me.”

When the first-place Ravens (4-3) effectively run the ball, the team usually wins. The Ravens are 23-4 in games with a 100-yard rusher under Brian Billick. Lewis has 18 of those 100-yard games.

According to Anderson, the Ravens’ offensive line opens a 2- or 3-yard hole on the line of scrimmage, and then Lewis takes over. Good downfield blocking by the receivers helps spring Lewis free in the secondary.

“Jamal’s the kind of a back that if you give him a crack, he’s going to explode north,” Anderson said. “We’re a physical group and we like to enforce that on other defenses.”

Ogden, who attended the District’s St. Albans School, is the undisputed leader of the Ravens’ line. The mammoth left tackle has started every game he has played since becoming Baltimore’s first draft pick in 1996.

In fact, the Ravens picked Ogden 22 spots before All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis in the same draft. Ogden is considered perhaps the NFL’s most dominant lineman and has started 47 straight games.

“It’s great — it’s a lineman’s dream to be leading the league in rushing and trying to accomplish things that very few have done in this league, but we have to continue to work at it,” Ogden said. “We can’t get complacent — we’re only halfway through the season.”

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