It’s been a good first couple of weeks for the Ravens. Starting fast with a couple of wins gives them a good opportunity to make it back to the playoffs after a two-year absence. The defense continues to dominate, and is clearly holding themselves to a high standard. They seem to understand that they are going to have carry this team to achieve their goals and that’s even more true after yesterday.
Although the Ravens won the game, it came at a major cost. A season-ending injury to Marshal Yanda is the latest in the decimation of an already depleted offensive line. For a team that wants to run the ball and overwhelm opponents on defense, Yanda was probably the offensive player the Ravens could least afford to lose – outside of Joe Flacco.
So, can the Ravens overcome the loss? Can they find a way to continue to do enough on the offensive side of the ball?
In some ways yes, though in others it could be a significant challenge.
Yanda has provided the Ravens with the best kind of leadership over the past decade. He leads by example on the field, is as tough a player as you will find in the NFL, and he brings intangibles to a team that few players do.
Can the Ravens replace his leadership? They probably can.
However, the 2017 Ravens feel much different. Players like Eric Weddle, Terrell Suggs and even newcomers like Jeremy Maclin and Ben Watson provide a strong veteran presence in the locker room. Yanda’s leadership will certainly be missed, but it’s not something the Ravens can’t overcome.
Replacing Yanda’s production on the field is a different story.
According to Pro Football Focus, Yanda hasn’t allowed a sack since Week 7 of 2015 against the Arizona Cardinals. He makes the players around him better, and it’s fair to wonder if the loss will have a ripple effect and cause Ryan Jensen and Austin Howard to struggle as well. He’s stout in both run blocking and pass protection and the Ravens have clearly committed to being a more balanced team this year. Tony Bergstrom won’t open the same holes that Yanda can and he won’t be able to provide Flacco with as much time to survey the field.
The addition of Greg Roman may now prove to be as important as any offseason signing the Ravens made. Roman’s schemes are creative but not overly complicated. Unlike Juan Castillo, players seem to embrace his style of both play calling and coaching. If there is any offensive line coach in the league that can find a way to minimize the damage of losing Yanda, it’s probably Roman.
Considering the fact that he has now lost both starting guards for the entire season, Roman will be tested. His track record as a coach suggests that he’ll find a way to make it work.
There’s no doubt that the loss of a Pro Bowl player and a guy who deserves to be in the Ring of Honor one day is a significant loss.
However, unlike in previous seasons, the Ravens might have the leadership and coaching staff in place to overcome this particular injury.