The Baltimore Ravens offensive line…where to begin?
Sure, the Ravens are 3-2 and in first place in the AFC North, but that will only last so long if the offensive line isn’t able to correct some of their issues…and quickly.
No offensive lineman is free of criticism, even right guard Marshal Yanda. In fact, even All-Pro fullback Vonta Leach has been the culprit on many plays, and Baltimore’s offensive line has been one of the worst in the NFL thus far.
Let’s take a look at three ways the offensive line struggled on Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.
Q1, 2nd and 7, 11:14 remaining
In this case, the scheme/play call appears to be the source of the issue.
On second down against Miami’s nickel package, the Ravens are in the shotgun with an 11 personnel, and the run play is to the strong side.
Left guard Kelechi Osemele (who was soon after removed from the game due to injury) pulls on the play; however, each blocker on the right side of the line has a defender to block, which leaves a hole between the left tackle and center for the linebacker to shoot through.
This leaves running back Ray Rice with nowhere to go, and he is bottled up in the backfield.
Center Gino Gradkowski and Yanda are both blocking the same defensive tackle, and with Osemele not there to help, the run play is a lost cause.
Q2, 1st and 10, 14:15 remaining
Here is an example showing that it’s not the offensive line’s fault every time, but that Leach and Rice also contribute to the issues.
On first down, the Ravens have a 21 personnel with the strong side on the left.
The Ravens run to the weak side, where Leach fails to get a clean block on the inside linebacker. Still, a running lane does form between Leach and right tackle Michael Oher.
Leach fails to hold onto his block for very long, but two years ago, Rice easily bursts through the hole that is given to him.
Instead, the entire running lane collapses before Rice can get through, and the play results in a minimal gain.
Leach’s inability to hold his block, as well as Rice’s lack of burst were the two contributing factors on this play.
Rice didn’t look to have an inherent burst before he suffered a hip injury against the Cleveland Browns, so this shouldn’t be all attributed to his injury.
This may just be a sign of the times and Rice likely isn’t as quick as he once was. It doesn’t help his cause when there is a blatant running lane that collapses due to Leach’s blocking struggles, either.
Q3, 2nd and 4, 6:23 remaining
Now let’s take a look at pass protection and the main scapegoat in Baltimore, Bryant McKinnie.
On 2nd down with the game tied, the Ravens have a bunch formation to the right with an obvious passing play ensuing.
McKinnie is easily beat off the line (shocker, right?) and he fails to get leverage. On the bright side, quarterback Joe Flacco has multiple options open downfield, including wide receiver Tandon Doss.
Flacco does hit his receiver downfield on this play, but he is lucky he comes out from the play unscathed.
Luckily for the Ravens and Flacco, McKinnie may never start another game in Baltimore with the arrival of Eugene Monroe, which is certainly a good sign.
McKinnie’s incompetence in pass protection leaves Flacco vulnerable, as plays like this are how quarterbacks can suffer season-ending injuries.
Flacco is arguably the most durable quarterback in the NFL, but given how often he has been hit this season, he’ll likely have to play through some injuries toward the end of the year.
It’s easy to blame the play of the offensive linemen when plays don’t work out like they are supposed to, but the blame can’t exclusively fall on the five men up front. The players in the backfield, as well as the coaching decisions, must change in order for Baltimore’s offense to sustain success this season.