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Ravens Offensive Line on The Mend

Lombardi's Way Ravens Offensive Line on The Mend

Posted in Lombardi's Way
4+ Comments Brian Tray says The addition of Zuttah hopefully will make a huge difference as will a healthy K.O. and Yanda. You might be overlooking John Hurst who could easily win the sta
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Last season the Ravens offense ranked 30th in rushing with 83.0 yards per game and they ranked dead last (32nd) in yards per carry (3.1).

The results were the byproduct of a perfect storm.

Bryant McKinnie was a failure – again! Kelechi Osemele fell to injury. Marshal Yanda hadn’t fully recovered from shoulder surgery and Michael Oher was Michael Oher.

Eugene Monroe was brought in on the fly and paired up with an undersized left guard playing out of position (AQ Shipley) who in turn played beside an inexperienced center (Gino Gradkowski) who was hesitant and indecisive.

Making matter worse the Ravens had a divided coaching staff.

Offensive line coach Andy Moeller had his approach and “Run Game Coordinator” Juan Castillo had another. Running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery couldn’t get on the same page as Castillo while his corps of ball carriers was bulked up to the point of immobility.

Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce were about as limber as Bernie in A Weekend at Bernie’s.

And that may be an insult to the iconic party animal.

shirts-fanimal-300x250Add it all up and the running game was a cluster.

But if recent OTA’s are any indication, the running game is on the mend in a very noticeable way.

Monroe and Osemele look powerful and athletic on the left side and scrape from left to right on stretch runs effortlessly. Jeremy Zuttah is quick off the snap and gets to the second level with suddenness and precision. Marshal Yanda looks healthy and fresh and the running backs more purposeful and explosive.

And perhaps most importantly there is a coordinated rhythm and tempo to the offense, particularly the running game, that hasn’t been as noticeable this early in years – a clear indication that Gary Kubiak, Juan Castillo and RB Coach Tom Hammock are on the same page.

As quickly as the ground game tanked in 2013 it could do a complete 180 in 2014 and get back to the 4.3 yards per carry that they enjoyed in 2011 and 2012.

The key to the recovery in the eyes of many is right tackle.

Is the Ravens starting right tackle on Opening Day even on the roster now?

Will it be Ricky Wagner or Ryan Jensen and if so will their efforts match those of Michael Oher during his better seasons?

Will it even matter?

It’s early and the players have only practiced in jerseys and shorts. Yet the improvement along the offensive front, left of the right tackle, seems so markedly improved that a serviceable right tackle might be good enough particularly if said RT is an effective run blocker.

Managing down and distance, selling play action (a staple of Kubiak’s offense) and chipping with backs and tight ends are a few of the ways the Ravens can help offset weak to marginal pass protection on the right edge.

There’s still work to be done – plenty of it.

Yet things are clearly heading in the right direction with the Ravens running game.

Then again, looking back upon the perfect storm from last season, could they get any worse?

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24x7 Networks, LLC's founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan. A diehard Fab Four fan, Tony is a frustrated musician who thinks beating on the steering wheel is akin to being John Bonham. Follow Tony on Twitter @RussellStReport. More from Tony Lombardi
4 comments
Brian Tray
Brian Tray

The addition of Zuttah hopefully will make a huge difference as will a healthy K.O. and Yanda. You might be overlooking John Hurst who could easily win the starting R tackle job. Watching him neutralize Clowney shows he has the ability to play well at this level. What concerns me is the lack of quality depth. We might as well just waive Gradkowski, Shipley and Reid as they proved they are just ineffective at this level. That leaves Rackley (?????) and two of the three R tackle candidates as possibly effective backups. An injury to one of the first five could end up being disastrous. We got a front row seat last year watching the offense melt down without an offensive line that could run block or pass protect. Let's hope they stay healthy since there is a lot of room for optimism if they do.

JerryB
JerryB

Great insight as usual, Tony! For whatever reason, RT has always been a sore spot for the Ravens, yet they have managed to win in spite of it. No doubt, protecting the "blind side" takes precedence & they seem to have that under control. So, finding a suitable replacement for the disappointing Michael Oher may not be a big deal. The question for the OL will be.....depth! This team, like the NFL, is built for passing, so the running game will complement the pass. As long as they can protect Flacco, which was a serious problem last year, the offense will be very productive. The mantra will continue to be, "as Flacco goes, so go the Ravens"!

Unibomber
Unibomber

I'd bet money that it improves greatly. Zuttah may have been an average center, but Gino was historically bad. So much so that the 29th ranked center last year would have been a huge upgrade. Getting a healthy KO might be the best improvement we could have made. Also, I get the feeling that we were only half committed to the zbs last year. You can't do that. Gotta be all in, and it seems with one of the most successful in running that scheme as our oc, that we finally are

Mike Z
Mike Z

Good write-up Tony. One stat you didn't mention: last in the league at tackles behind the LOS and 25th in QB pressures. This all re-enforces what you are saying: O-Line needs improvement for the team to improve. Like you, I never once bought in to McKinney past his second game as a Raven. His first game as a Raven was awesome against the Steelers on 9/11/11, but after that I think he had more blocks on the infamous party bus than on the field. The exception being the Super Bowl run after he sat the entire season out and was so rested he couldn't help but be successful. Michael "Quick Step" Oher did OK, but not enough when the rest of the line was in a shambles. But, I do take caution is something I read somewhere last week: "It's difficult to evaluate the running game because hitting isn't allowed." Let's just hope it improves........for all of our blood pressure's sake.

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