Reconfiguring The Ravens O-Line

Ravens O line 2

If Joe Flacco is going to lead the Ravens back to playoff prominence, he’s going to need a much better offensive line blocking for him. If Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce and the running back the Ravens are likely to draft are going to establish Baltimore’s ground game, they’re going to need a better offensive line blocking for them.

How many times in 2013 did the Ravens, due to procedure penalties or blown blocking assignments, get behind in down and distance? Too many.

Left guard Kelechi Osemele had a back injury that forced him to get surgery and subsequently miss nine games last year. Right guard Marshal Yanda, though he made the Pro Bowl, had more missed assignments last season than he seemingly has had the during the rest of his career combined.

Chalk that up to bad luck. Those players have shown they’re talented and fans should know by now they are the two best offensive linemen the Ravens have.

Baltimore’s two starting tackles (Eugene Monroe and Michael Oher) are both unrestricted free agents. Center Gino Gradkowski struggled last year, plain and simple. If the Ravens feel Gradkowski needs a replacement, they’re likely to look to Ryan Jensen or to the 2014 draft class.

So if the Ravens do make a move for a free agent offensive lineman, it’ll almost certainly be for a tackle. Baltimore cannot afford to keep both Monroe and Oher, so who will they keep?

 

My take on Oher

If Oher doesn’t recover Flacco’s fumble on a 3rd-and-20 in San Diego during the 2012 season, Rice doesn’t get the chance to make a 29-yard reception for one of the most memorable plays in NFL history.

And although Oher is better than most fans want to admit, he plays right tackle, which in today’s NFL is the less important of the two tackle positions.

What’s more telling is that in the five years Oher has played for the Ravens, he’s been the cause of 47 accepted penalties to the tune of 352 yards.

I’m not saying it’ll be an easy decision for the Ravens to make and I’m not trying to bash the guy, but Oher didn’t play his best football last year, a contract year. That’s not a good sign.

 

My take on Monroe

Monroe just completed his first NFL contract, which paid him $26.25 million over five years. I expect the Ravens to sign him to a six-year deal worth between $36-38 million.

First, besides Carolina’s Jordan Gross, Monroe is probably the best left tackle available in free agency. Second, if you’re going to pay Flacco and surround him with talent at the skill positions, you’d better secure his blind side. Third, Monroe and his wife Nureya like the area (she’s from Columbia), which is always a positive negotiating point.

 

What’s next?

The Ravens’ offensive line should look different in 2014, both in terms of personnel and scheme. I know Juan Castillo is the offensive line coach and his zone-blocking scheme didn’t work with the lineman the Ravens had last year. However, Gary Kubiak is, in essence, Castillo’s boss. So if Kubiak says the zone-blocking scheme isn’t a good fit for Baltimore’s personnel, Baltimore won’t run that scheme.

You could see a healthy, invigorated offensive line in 2014 that consists of Eugene Monroe (LT), Kelechi Osemele (LG), Ryan Jensen (C), Marshal Yanda (RG) and Rick Wagner (RT). For what it’s worth, Wagner played for Thomas Hammock (the Ravens’ new running backs coach) at Wisconsin.

That would mean Baltimore would only have to make one move (re-signing Monroe), which wouldn’t really be a big change, since he played in 11 games for the Ravens last year.

All of a sudden, a weak spot is strengthened.

Surely all of this is “on paper” and it will have to be eventually proven on the field. But when the Ravens players, coaches and front office are challenged, they respond with remarkable resilience.

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About Mike Fast

Mike Fast
I was born and raised in Baltimore. But after a year at York College of Pennsylvania, I transferred to Towson University. At York and Towson, I hosted various radio shows, wrote for the school paper, spoke on a panel RE: college game day presentation at IBS conference in Manhattan and...more

8 Raves on “Reconfiguring The Ravens O-Line

  1. Boldin Raver on said:

    I’m kinda wishy washy on this article. In part I think you’re right, Mike. This line could work and be effective (although I admit a little uncertainty WRT these players matching Kubiak’s scheme). However, it kind of feels like last season. It all looks good on paper, and then you find out KO was broke, Yanda had a shoulder problem, McKinnie was regressing (more) into childhood, our center looks set, but has a multitude of deficiencies, and of course we all enjoyed learning this math lesson together: new blocking schemes + rookie center = biblical-type disaster. I think their may be a little too much optimism re KO’s recovery and Wagner’s and Jenson’s talent. So first, I will have trouble feeling comfortable going into this season without an experienced center. I would also like to see another KO quality rookie or two in the mix plus maybe a Kubiak crony on the line to help everyone with the new scheme – in a phrase, better depth.

    • Cawtious on said:

      Jensen was kept on the active roster without playing a single down. He was injured, but practiced with the team, took snaps, and worked with the offense. That wasn’t a investment made in a mediocre player. He brings nearly 20 more lbs. to the position, and agility coupled with a tenacious attitude. If he stays healthy, he’ll start.

  2. jws on said:

    If the Ravens gamble with line you propose even if they can sign Monroe they will lose the bet! Osemele struggled last year when he played and some at guard in 2012, there is no assurance that back is ready for full time 16 games especuially by week one. Injured Jensen to start at center and Wagner at right tackle are two inexperienced additions. You can hope that 3 out 5 players on your line with 1 or no years experience in the NFL at those positions will succeed but that much inexperience usually proves costly especially to your QBS health.. This team must add a veteran center in free agency, sign Monroe and also add another veteran at guard in the third tier of free agents this year that is cap friendly for this team to have at least an average line.

  3. John on said:

    If Wagner and Jensen are plugged into the lineup, the only viable backups would be Jah Reid and Gradkowski and we would have two second year players with minimal playing time protecting Flacco… I think the Ravens need to aqcuire a veteran stopgap center, someone with just a little left in the tank that we can sign on a cheap 1 or 2 year deal. With that piece in play I think they will draft a good tackle or guard prospect in the late first round (trade down) or in the second. Ultimately the draft will play out how it will play out but I think a veteran center is essential.

  4. Rob on said:

    I’m with Boldin Raver on this piece. It’s a lot of ifs, much like the Orioles off season. The one thing I didn’t like, I’m not sure anybody is Castillo’s boss, certainly not Kubiak and maybe not even Harbaugh. Nothing has shown me that anybody has that role.

  5. Bruce_Almty on said:

    I wish we had 3 draft picks in the top 15 but since we don’t, the quality of the o-lineman we draft will depend on the round and that all depends on Ozzie/John’s eval of the players we have. We have 3 draft picks in the first 80 players; we need a FS, OL, WR, TE, ILB. It will be interesting to see this play out.

  6. The Truth on said:

    Well son, as you said; it all looks good on paper, but we don’t know if Jensen will be any better than Grad was….. As a matter of fact, he couldn’t beat out Grad for the job last yr, so what do you think has changed to make him a sudden starter ? Wagner will have to improve also to be an every down player, he sure didn’t set anything on fire last yr either…..I’m confident that Kube will get the best players on the OL but there is plenty of room for improvement over the players we had last yr….

  7. Anon on said:

    To me, getting Zack Martin at 17 should be a lock. He’s plug and play at RT, and if he’s more suited to G in the pros, you could put KO out on the right.

    You could see the improvements that Shipley was making in the last few games of the season. I would keep him around in a depth role. Gradkowski, not so much.

    I would draft Travis Swanson in the 3rd – he had a great Senior Bowl and he looks pretty much like a day one starter. Bit of a risk, so drafting a solid starting veteran for a year might be advisable.

    Once you re-sign Monroe, suddenly the line is set! Re-signing Pitta, a cheap cap casualty FS and Jordan Matthews in the 2nd and we’re a force.

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