Coming off a great win against Seattle, it's hard to get too upset about anything. However, there was one moment where millions of lungs held still. A moment I would have rather not had. And if my reaction was any sort of national indicator, a lot of profanity and substance abuse followed in the next few minutes.
Of course I'm talking about Ben's close call on Sunday. We all saw his knee bend in, and I know what most of you were thinking: "Oh my god our season'' If that thought didn't cross your mind, you were either blitzed too hard to realize what was happening or you're related to Charlie Batch.
I wanted to make a little poast to help us gather just how important Big Ben is to our team at the moment, and what we need to do to make sure he stays alive. So that we stay alive.
As soon as Ben went down my mind flashed to a report I had read earlier in the week. That report was that Hines Ward was taking snaps as a QB. Now at the moment it seemed kinda silly, but suddenly it became a very real thought. Hines was one more blitz on a passing play from having to play QB. Maybe that's why the team didn't call any passes when Batch came in. Usually they let Batch throw it on 3rd down, but they didn't even try. Usually he doesn't pass until Ben's status is known. I've noticed that Batch always comes in and handsoff the first series or so.
This was a real shocker to me and I feel I have to point this out. Dixon was injured and didn't practice, but it was kept pretty quiet. He was inactive for the game. We know Leftwich is already gone for the year. So at the moment Batch is our #2. Now while I like Batch, he's clearly fragile and isn't much of an epic game winner. He has played great for us in situational moments and one week stints, but how many games do you think we win this year if he's the starter? Enough to win the playoffs? Hell, Enough to make the division? I doubt it. Even if he had to just cover half a season, how many of those games do we win? 4 or 5? Maybe. Again, I doubt more than .500. Ben is a good .700.
And that doesn't even consider the affect it would have on playcalling. Batch isn't going to get lucky on too many deep bombs like he did against Tampa Bay last year. And he's not going to scramble around and find a receiver on a rollout. He'd be sacked quite a bit given the current state of our O-line. If he could even complete all the games, he'd still be a lot less effective only from a physical standpoint. His throwing is solid but even so it's not perfectly accurate nor is it a fast laser like Ben's. Consider that dropped pick yesterday, does that happen if it's a Batch pass? I'd wager it goes back inside the 20.
I'm not trying to scare-monger here, but it's a valid point.
Ben has managed to stay alive so far, and we've dodged our share of bullets. This happened before against San Diego and Ben actually had to sit a few games. We still came back to win that year but it could have been worse. Much worse. The question becomes this: How much beating can a man take as he gets older? Ben isn't a fossil yet, but at 29 is definitely going to start becoming more frail as time goes on. Those injuries are cumulative to a point and as one gets older they can't heal as fast and can't take as much punishment as before.
So with that clear, it takes us to the O-line. We simply can't allow 40-50 sacks again this year. That number has to drop. The O-line looked much better against Seattle. For the record they had two pass rushers combine for 20 sacks last year, so they weren't a terrible pass rushing team. They had some good players there and we handled it pretty well. Two sacks were given up, one of which wasn't really the O-lines fault so much as a faulty protection scheme on the play. Still, the Seahawks aren't the Ravens who have many more sackmasters on their team.
Our O-line needs consistency. And it needs leadership. Pouncey is playing good ball and he's a stud. He should have the playbook and line calls down pretty well, although he's still learning. But I think it's time for him to emerge as a great Lineman leader. Like Faneca and Dawson for the Steelers, Jeff Saturday on the Colts, Mangold on the Jets, guys like these unify and create a strong line. It's no coincidence that those teams with those players had great O-lines and could run the ball and pass it down anybody's throat. This is Pouncey's role, he must step up into it.
The O-line needs controlled agression. I saw good burst from Foster and Gilbert on the running plays. And one thing I didn't see: Stupid penalties. At least, not from them. Legursky on the other hand had a real bone-headed cut block in the back. And he didn't look as hungry. I was expecting more from a guy with a chip on his shoulder and a tough as nails body. Kemoeatu could take a lesson from his replacement in how NOT to draw a flag. Kemo could be a great lineman with more discipline.
The tackles need to be thorough and diligent. I feel that Scott is doing alright given that his first opponent was Suggs who is a monster. However he has been a weak spot. He seems to be able to hold a guy up if he gets in the right position, but sometimes doesn't seem to try and go out of his way to find that position. It seems a tad lazy to me sometimes. He reacts slowly. Some may say it's getting beat, but I think Scott could react quicker and show some more burst. Gilbert did very well but on a couple plays he didn't finish. For example the hit on Ben. If Gilbert pushes him down and a bit farther away, we don't even have this scare in the first place. He's learning and his performance for a rookie was admirable.
I feel like our O-line can be successful. However I think there are two things that would have to happen, one of which probably can't/won't and the other is up to the coaching staff, but I suspect it's not likely.
The first would be moving Fostor or Kemo to RG. I almost think this was a great performance by Foster, and frankly I think he is better at the LG position. Perhaps he should be there. Kemo could be more of a mandozer in the RG spot and Foster plays a little weaker on the weak side anyway. To me it aligns your mass a little better for our often right handed offense. It provides a nice balance of strength and size
Unfortunately I just don't know if Legursky can cut it at guard full time. He has started just 3 games now, and one was a SB. That equates to less experience, and I just don't know how he skyrocketed up into the RG spot. It didn't make much sense to me then and it doesn't now.
The Second thing, the one I really doubt, would be to bring back Starks. Scott can't cut it in my opinion. Starks was a good, if a little overpaid, LT. However I always thought he was better at RT where he started his career. Marvel Smith was a great LT so maybe that's why Starks stayed on the right, but I think he did really well there. Let Gilbert move to his natural position and become the LT of the future today. He played well but might as well put him there where he belongs. This provides much needed size to the tackles. Starks was good because he was just a giant wall pummeling anything that came by. Scott is far too small and just gets pushed around too much.
To me this would make the only real variable the performance of Foster at LG, and I think he'd do well. Our biggest concern would be an injury. But I think if we had 2 high draft picks, and our 2 best starters from the last few years, we'd be a hell of a lot better than what we have now.
Of course, it's a lot of switching around. Some will probably put the ''this will never happen'' tag on this poast. And I know that. But I think it's worth stating something if only to make people think about it. Besides, the O-line is always a nice discussion point on BTSC.
Getting back to the origin of this poast. We depend on Big Ben. Without him, our shot at anything special in this tightening window are gone. Ben has several years left if and only if he stays healthy. He's much more susceptible to injury now and the FO needs to wake up to that fact. He can't take this kind of abuse forever and if he takes one really bad injury he might never be the same. I remember how tentative he looked in 2006 after the motorcycle incident. He didn't want to scramble, he didn't want to run out much, he didn't stand in and take hits. And we went 8-8. i would hate to see another single digit season all because we didn't protect Ben.
it's all about the Benjamin, so it needs to be about the O-line also.
What do you think we should do about the O-line? Do you agree we'd be super screwed without the Ben? Do you hate this poast and does it stank (no profanity for 1500 words!!!)