Gary Kubiak’s offense has long been a productive one, among the league’s best. It has also been one that heavily depends on an effective running game.
In 2013 the Ravens’ running game was hardly effective.
Some blame the running backs; some blame the offensive line; some blame the coaching of the offensive line; some blame the play calling.
It was all of the above.
The Ravens have improved the offensive line this offseason. They’ve re-signed Eugene Monroe who we hear has become quite the gym rat and they’ve added center Jeremy Zuttah. Kelechi Osemele is dragging and flipping tractor-trailer tires around like they’re pancakes so there’s reason to believe he’s healthy. Marshal Yanda is one year removed from shoulder surgery and should have a healthier 2014.
The only unsolved piece of the puzzle is right tackle. It could be Ricky Wagner. It could be Jah Reid. It could be an early draft pick. It could be a veteran free agent.
It could also be Osemele.
If the Ravens don’t draft a starting caliber right tackle and if second-year offensive lineman Ryan Jensen, the former ThunderWolf from Colorado State University-Pueblo with the nasty disposition is impressive at left guard during camp, KO could be the choice at RT.
As for the coaching, 2013 was such an embarrassment to John Harbaugh that you can rest assured offensive line coach Juan Castillo and Kubiak will be on the same page. There’s no way around it. Besides Castillo’s approach seems to be a better fit for Coach Kubes’ style than the departed Jim Caldwell’s and there won’t be the infighting amongst the staff that was somewhat divisive in 2013.
Then Castillo, Andy Moeller and running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery couldn’t see eye-to-eye and the message to the players was at best mixed.
So with the personnel, the staff and the play calling all addressed, that leaves the running backs.
Former All Pro Ray Rice is said to be leaner and quicker albeit more emotionally scarred. Bernard Pierce is recovering from shoulder surgery and newcomer Justin Forsett had only 6 carries in 2013 as a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
It’s quite possible that Rice will be suspended for a game or two. Plus until he proves that 2013 was an aberration it’s hard not to think that the running back wall is just around the corner for Rice assuming he hasn’t already hit it. And let’s not forget the storm of verbal abuse that awaits him in each stadium he’ll visit in 2014.
If Rice is ineffective, the team will be forced to turn to Pierce for the heavy lifting and the third-year pro isn’t exactly a model of durability and that’s prior to dealing with the shoulder rehabbing. Forsett has never had more than 118 carries in a season. He’s generally regarded as a change-of-pace back at best.
Perhaps the Ravens will turn to the draft for answers or at the very least for an insurance policy.
Perhaps a veteran free agent?
For an offense dependent upon a solid ground attack the Ravens certainly have their fair share of unanswered questions in the offensive backfield.
But as we’ve seen with Ozzie Newsome in the past, the offseason isn’t over until the Ravens tee it up on opening day.
And that should be music to the ears of Gary Kubiak.