OTA NOTES: Offensive Line Begins to Gel

Monroe weight room
Photo Credit: BaltimoreRavens.com

Even if you didn’t know that the Ravens hired a new offensive coordinator you would still sense that something has changed when watching the team’s offense practice.

There’s more attention to detail. More focus on fundamentals. More repetitions.

The pacing is quicker and the execution seems more precise, particularly at this early stage of development.

Players across the board will tell you that Kubiak’s offense is simpler, easier to grasp and when that happens athleticism takes over. Things happen faster and that creates opportunity.

Kubiak OTAs“[Gary is] a heck of a coach”, explained John Harbaugh following yesterday’s practice.

“The biggest thing that I’m impressed with, among many things, is how well-built the offense is. The offense is really well organized. It’s built in such a way that it can be executed with speed and with confidence, and that’s the goal.”

Keeping in mind that contact is limited and the players are wearing only jerseys, shorts and helmets, here are few takeaways from yesterday’s practice on the offensive side of the ball…

Despite the fact that the offense overall looks sharp in terms of execution, ironically Joe Flacco hasn’t played particularly well. Fundamentally he looks sound, paying more attention to footwork, looking off safeties while refining his ball skills, particularly with play action. But his decision-making and accuracy aren’t yet in synch. For now we’ll give him a pass since he’s the commander of a new offense.

That said Flacco has been guilty of throwing into zone coverage as if it were man and he’s been behind receivers. The Ravens want more YAC but if that is to happen Flacco can’t be slowing down open receivers by forcing them to adjust to late or inaccurate passes. Joe was intercepted a few times during practice, once by Jimmy Smith who took it to the house and finished off the Pick 6 in fine Mr. Olympic form…Tyrod Taylor is explosive when executing a staple of Kubiak’s offense – the waggle. Keith Wenning has poise but struggled with throws inside the hash marks and on deep throws. His game seems to be the short to intermediate throws to the outside – at least so far.

The running backs who stood out on Wednesday as Bernard Pierce continues his recovery and is limited, are Ray Rice and Justin Forsett – particularly the latter. Forsett is the quickest player on the field and has left defenders on the ground seemingly with broken ankles thanks to his outstanding change of direction skills. He has nice hands and a familiarity with Kubiak’s offense. Both backs have been very productive and decisive on stretch runs, particularly those to the right. Their reads have been solid and they are finding daylight cutting back to the left.

Steve Smith was the standout among the receiving corps yesterday. He found daylight in short spaces and split a double-team to complete a long connection with Flacco. The pass was thrown behind Smith but it’s possible that Flacco targeted the back shoulder to avoid Matt Elam who was closing from the inside. Earlier during the practice Smith beat Chykie Brown on a quick slant and then split defenders to take it in for the score…Marlon Brown continues to look sharp, showing strong hands and precise route running. He has also shown some veteran savvy when quitting on a route after seeing Flacco flushed from the pocket. Brown worked his way back to his quarterback to haul in the pass finished off by some nifty toe-tapping along the sideline.

Michael Campanaro (wearing No. 6) was on the field but did not participate in scrimmaging. He was restricted to just uncontested route-running, pitch and catch with the quarterbacks…A receiver who has shown well so far is UDFA Jace Davis out of Northern-Colorado. He’s worth keeping an eye on as the competitive intensity is dialed up. Another UDFA WR that we’ll keep tabs on is Jeremy ButlerDennis Pitta and Owen Daniels are both practicing like polished professionals. Crockett Gilmore will benefit. He looks the part physically and catches what is thrown his way but as rookies often do, he seems a bit hesitant. That should flush out with repetitions and tutelage from his positional vets…Kyle Juszczyk is a polished ball catcher.

Last season the offensive line was a disaster. During these OTAs it looks like a well-oiled machine when executing stretch runs. Perhaps it’s the singularity of voice in coaching. It could be the play design is better. Maybe the combination of talent is more complementary. Possibly with some health issues behind them the players are functioning closer to 100%. More than likely it’s all of the above.

The standouts from my vantage point so far are Kelechi Osemele and Jeremy Zuttah. Osemele is in great shape and is practicing with passion. Zuttah is very quick and gets to the second level almost effortlessly. Eugene Monroe is in excellent shape and is embracing a leadership role. At right tackle so far, it would appear the job will be won by Ricky Wagner or Ryan Jensen. The team rarely mentions Jah Reid whose commitment is questionable at best. UDFA James Hurst is coming along slowly.

Many still wonder if the Ravens will test the free agent market for a right tackle and that remains a possibility if Wagner and Jensen aren’t up to the task. But don’t count on that any time soon and don’t count on Osemele bumping out to right tackle. The team is borderline giddy over the prospects of Monroe and KO becoming a dynamic tandem on the left.

Obviously the Ravens don’t want to move on FA tackle Eric Winston, at least not yet. Word is that the team isn’t impressed with the way Winston has played in recent seasons and given his status as NFLPA president Winston’s commitment as a player could come into question. Time will tell but the guess here is that IF Winston becomes a Raven it only happens after Wagner/Jensen fails and a more desirable (and at this point unknown) free agent isn’t available.

But at the end of the day, or at least the most recent OTAs, the offensive line is clearly on the road to recovery.

And if that continues, so too will be the Baltimore Ravens.


Here’s a look at what the defense did…

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About Tony Lombardi

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...more

12 Raves on “OTA NOTES: Offensive Line Begins to Gel

  1. D-Rock on said:

    These early offseason articles get me excited. I really do believe we will be a force this year, mostly down the stretch when the team can gel. Keep the offseason info coming!

  2. RJ on said:

    Great job on filling us in on the OTAs, as always! I really appreciate reading insightful notes on the players, the practices, and team chemistry, i.e. Oline development.

    Keep it coming.


    • wickedsolo on said:

      I totally agree.

      Not only will it force him to be more accurate and thoughtful with his passes, but it will also force him to get the ball out quicker and make quicker reads.

      I also think the WCO is going to do wonders for the receivers as well. Rather than long developing routes (which some guys were on the same side of the ball running the SAME routes…ugh…) like in year’s past, we’ll actually see crossing patterns, come back routes, back shoulder throws, option routes, digs, slants, sluggo routes…

      I can’t wait.

  3. Joshua on said:

    For what it’s worth, PFF rated Winston near the bottom of right tackles last season. I think it behooves the team to allow youngsters like Wagner and Jensen battle for the job. We drafted these kids for a reason — let ‘em play!

  4. Larrie on said:

    Tony, a number of analyst have reported that Joe has not been very accurate with short to intermediate passes. We have seen games when he time and time again has missed wide open WR or over thrown them. There have been many times I have wondered why are we not using more slant routes based on timing. Your observation of Joe’s performance supports the notion that he has issues with accuracy. The west coast system requires the QB to let the ball go before the WR is open. Can Joe Be That guy? Does that system use his strengths? I am a big time Ravens fan and and I am like Joe but it seems like I am always defending him. I hope his comfort level gets better real quick. We can’t have CB’s taking Int’s to house like that!!

    • TRUTH on said:

      You should panic and worry relentlessly! An interception thrown in OTA’s is a clear sign of our apocalyptic ending.

    • wickedsolo on said:

      Just my opinion, but I think the whole “Flacco isn’t an accurate passer” mantra is kind of overblown. If you go back and look at the offensive play design that Flacco has been in for the past 6 years, he rarely had a wide open receiver to throw and a majority of his passes were low-probability plays to begin with. Couple those things with receivers not being coached to come back to the ball – which Steve Smith Sr excels at – and you’ve got three major reasons why Flacco has been a below 60% passer.

      Now, Flacco isn’t perfect and he does throw some bad passes. However, I think once he gets his timing down with the new offense he’ll be fine. Gary Kubiak is a technician and Flacco has some really outstanding offensive coaches working with him and everyone; probably the best offensive staff the Ravens have EVER had.

      This is the first of many practice sessions and the most important thing is he gets the ball to where it needs to be. If that happens, everything else will fall into place.

  5. Chris on said:

    the whole season hinges on our offensive line, if it is even average Flacco will dominate the AFCN again, if its horrid we will be battling for 3rd in the division

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