Ravens Offensive Line on The Mend

Photo Credit: Baltimore Ravens/Shawn Hubbard

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?

This entry was posted in Blog View, Featured, Lombardi's Way by Tony Lombardi. Bookmark the permalink.

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

4 Raves on “Ravens Offensive Line on The Mend

  1. Mike Z on said:

    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.

  2. Unibomber on said:

    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

  3. JerryB on said:

    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”!

  4. Brian Tray on said:

    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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Hot off the street

PRACTICE NOTES: Bynes Released, Webb & J. Smith Return

As the Ravens prepare this week to open the the 2014 NFL season against the Cincinnati Bengals, they do so with all 53 players on the practice field, a good sign everyone is healthy and ready to go. ...read more

ASK THE CAP MAN: What’s the “Rule of 51?”

(1/2) Ravens are currently $8,392,818 under the Salary Cap, but that is Ruleof51 #, which ends at 4:00 tomorrow. After that, they all count— Brian McFarland (@RavensSalaryCap) September 2, 2014 ...read more

Ravens 2014 TV & Radio Programming

Ravens Wired, presented by Bose ·       Tuesdays at 5 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet ·       Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. on MeTV Baltimore (WBAL-TV; second...read more

FANTASY LINKS: Pick Up Taliaferro

15 Fantasy Football Transactions for Week 1 "We’re back. Fantasy football is back. And that means weekly start-sit decisions, waiver wire adds and emotional ups and downs that you’d only find i...read more

Ravens Predictions For The 2014 Season

Biggest Surprise: To say that the position of cornerback is thin for the Baltimore Ravens is about as insightful as saying ESPN slobbers over Johnny Manziel. Starters Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb ha...read more

View More