Training Camp Preview: Offensive Line

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Kelechi Osemele training camp 2013 (Photo Credit: Carroll County Times)

We could just say “Baltimore’s offensive line can’t get any worse than last year, so it can only go up from here” and call it a day.

That assumption is probably true, but how much better the offensive line for the Baltimore Ravens will be in 2014 remains to be seen.

Easily the most forgettable collective offensive line performance in franchise history, the 2013 line never gelled, never had one good collective game, and quite frankly was just defunct of talent.

The Ravens are returning their two lone quality starters – left tackle Eugene Monroe and Marshal Yanda – and return a once injured but now presumably healthy left guard in Kelechi Osemele, whose midseason departure due to back problems paved the way for the disappointing experiment with A.Q. Shipley at left guard.

The Ravens should see at least a little improvement this season along the offensive line after an offseason of trying to fix it.

Notable new additions: Jeremy Zuttah and John Urschel – Center was Baltimore’s weakest point on the roster last season. Second-year player Gino Gradkowski never developed, nor did he display an inherent feel for the offense.

After one season with Gradkowski at the position, the Ravens made it obvious that his performance was disappointing, as they shipped a 2015 draft pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for veteran Jeremy Zuttah, who then signed a new five-year, $18 million deal with the team.

The trade and his new contract made it clear that all intentions are for Zuttah to be the new franchise center for the Ravens.

Urschel, a fifth-round pick in this year’s draft, may never be a starter at any position like Zuttah, but his presence should provide some caution for Shipley and Gradkowski, whose roster spots are not guarantees heading into training camp.

Urschel is expected to be Zuttah’s backup at center and provide depth at guard, where he played in college.

Player with the most to prove: Kelechi Osemele – After playing in all 20 games as a rookie (16 at right tackle, four at left guard in the playoffs), and performing well all season, it appeared that the Ravens drafted a future stud in Osemele.

While that still may be the case, Osemele’s underwhelming (and short) 2013 season provides some caution moving forward, as he played in only seven games, all at left guard. In those seven games prior to season-ending back surgery, Osemele looked nothing like the consistent all-around guard he was for the team during the Super Bowl run.

Was it due to the shift to the zone-blocking scheme, his injury, or both?

Now a full-go for training camp and having participated in offseason workouts, injuries can be thrown aside as a reason if Osemele struggles in his third NFL season.

If he can return to his 2012 form, though, his talent alone will be a noticeable improvement to the offensive line.

Lineman to keep an eye on: Jeremy Zuttah – As mentioned above, Baltimore’s investment in Zuttah made it clear that he will be the team’s sustainable solution at center.

Expectations will probably be low for Zuttah, who can win over the support of the fans by providing any noticeable improvement over Gradkowski, but Zuttah can provide more than simply not being as bad as his predecessor.

Probably the least talked about offseason addition, Zuttah was one of general manager Ozzie Newsome’s smartest moves. He should fit into the offense well as he is quite the athlete, and his experience at center should ease the transition process.

Baltimore interior offensive line was the majority of the problem in 2013, but expect Zuttah to be a factor in the rebuild, and an immediate contributor for the team.

6 Raves on “Training Camp Preview: Offensive Line

  1. Scott on said:

    Agree. This is the below radar but absolutely critical off-season improvement by the Ravens. The interior OL last year, with the overmatched Gradowski, undersized Shipley, and banged up Yanda, was a huge reason why Flacco was faced so much pressure and the running game was a disappointment. With a healthy Osemele and Yanda, and the addition of Zuttah, the interior OL should be in much better shape — bigger, stronger and more aggressive.

  2. JWS on said:

    how can you write a report about the offensive line and leave out
    the right tackle position? TL needs to use some other writers.

    • Tony LombardiTony Lombardi on said:

      Kyle does a great job. Take notes. This piece is consistent with the series he’s produced so far. Oh and it’s in English!

  3. charlie on said:

    in defense of gino, the blocking assignments were poorly conceived. go back and check out how lost the line was when the other team ran ANY type of stunt.

  4. Brian Tray on said:

    Right tackle is important but nowhere near as important as a healthy K.O and Yanda. These two are pro bowl caliber and can dominate upfront. The loss of K.O. was single most important reason the offense was ineffective. Gradkowski and Shipley were ineffective and IMO could be released right now.
    Monroe is a very good left tackle. I hope Zuttah performs well and with Yanda and K.O. on his flanks I think he will. He seems to be smart and has a lot of experience. He was a big pick up. As far as R tackle, if the other 4 guys play well it won’t be so critical. BUT….We have 3 great possibilities in Wagner, Jensen and Hurst. IMO Hurst ends up being the starting R tackle. He is a beast and a baller…..watch the UNC-SC game film from last year. He shut down Jadaveon Clowney and that tells me he is capable of handling R tackle for the Ravens. If Wagner or Jensen beats him out then we are in very good shape at R tackle. Having Wagner, Jensen and Rackley as backups gives us some decent depth. WAY better than last year.
    The improvements in quality and depth on the offensive line bodes well for the offense this year. Joe has the best set of receivers he has ever had. In Kubiak’s offense even Taliaferro should have a good year. I think Rice gains over 2000 yards and returns to probowl form. Joe should be licking his chops. He finally has a great O.C. with a definite game plan and an offensive line that will let him execute it.
    This will be Flacco’s best year…not statistically but in Wins and Losses…..with this defense the ravens go 12-4 at Worst.

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