It is no secret that the Baltimore Ravens simply cannot be successful this season with the way the offense is playing.
In the midst of a slew of injuries, the receiving corps is underwhelming, the tight ends have failed to hit stride, the running backs have been OK, Joe Flacco has underwhelmed and the offensive line has been, well, spotty to say the least.
As a result of the laundry list of issues on offense, we are going to take a look at one unit specifically that needs to take a turn for the better soon, otherwise the Ravens are shaping up to be a sub-.500 team at year’s end.
With a handful of injuries along the offensive line, there is a small bit of “benefit of the doubt” handed to the unit, however with that said, hindsight bias and all, the Ravens could have prepared better for this situation.
Left tackle Ronnie Stanley has been the lone above average player along the offensive line, and quite frankly he is shaping up to be one of the better tackles in the NFL in the near future. As for the rest of the offensive line, there is much to be desired.
Center Ryan Jensen has been a pleasant surprise in the sense that he could have what it takes to be a long-term starter for the Ravens. As each game goes on, he seems to be settling in more, and by season’s end he should be a more complete player.
Overall, though, the unit has a handful of improvements needed in order to succeed. Left guard James Hurst has been adequate at times, and poor on many other occasions. Right tackle Austin Howard has been an OK addition, but quite frankly the Ravens should have handled replacing Ricky Wagner with much more urgency.
As for right guard Jermaine Eluemunor? Oof.
One thing should be clear here: Eluemunor should not be playing. That is not a slight to the rookie either, as the raw athlete does have some enticing potential, but would not have been considered for a starting job this year if no injuries occurred. The unfortunate reality now, though, is the Ravens are stuck with Eluemunor until either Matt Skura is back to 100%, or the team makes a trade or signs a starting-caliber right guard.
Let’s take a look at just how the offensive line is underachieving.
The run blocking has been better than the pass protection, but on Sunday against the Chicago Bears, there were several occurrences on run plays that were cause for concern.
Here, Alex Collins is running to the left, and the line gets in position ahead of the handoff.
Both Howard and Eluemunor have quite simple blocks to execute, however both get poor positioning ahead of Collins’ run.
By the time Collins receives the ball and is ready to find a run lane, both Howard and Eluemunor have completely lost their assignments, and the running back is left with nowhere to run.
Even with how bad the run blocking was on Sunday, the pass blocking was even worse.
Here, quarterback Joe Flacco has a rather clean pocket as he looks for a receiver. The only block left to make is the blitzing linebacker, and this should be an easy execution for Eluemunor.
The rookie right guard is completely lost on the play, not even noticing the linebacker rushing up the middle.
This play could not have been worse by the rookie, as the linebacker has an easy sack on the play.
While Eluemunor can be an easy target to highlight struggles, he is not the only one with lapses in pass protection. Even more tenured players on the offensive line are struggling to pick up blocks.
Here, a linebacker is blitzing between Stanley and Hurst.
With Jensen handling the interior defensive lineman and Stanley handling the outside rusher, the blitzing linebacker should be Hurst’s to pick up, or at least be aware of.
Instead, Hurst fails to even notice the linebacker to his left, as Stanley has to leave the edge rusher to provide assistance.
Stanley does pick up the blitz at the last second, but by then Flacco has already had to rush a throw. By the time Hurst notices the rusher, it is already too late in the play.
Simple lapses in communication and assignments by the offensive line, as well as simply poor execution of blocks, is severely holding back the offense.
The injury to Marshal Yanda did not help, but the issues go beyond just right guard. Outside of Stanley, the Ravens are dealing with underwhelming talent, and if no additions are made, they need to coach up the unit they have quick, otherwise the team will struggle in the coming weeks.
Can this issue be fixed or will this be a season-long problem?
Time will tell, but for now the problem appears to be here to stay.