Ravens Positional Previews
We are one week away from veterans reporting to the Under Armour Performance Center, one week from training camp, one week from football. The Baltimore Ravens have undergone plenty of alterations to personnel this offseason, replacing locker room leaders with new faces and revamping the entire receiving corps for the second straight season. The focus of this article will be the offensive line and how it can adjust as a unit into a complex Greg Roman scheme.
Projected Starters (Pre-Training Camp):
CENTER: For the last two seasons, the offensive line has lacked consistency, in terms of health and play. Last year’s starting center Matt Skura had a subpar first half of 2018, but was able to improve once the Ravens made the switch to a run-heavy offense.
Skura struggles mightily in pass protection, which is a problem in today’s passing league. The key to helping sophomore quarterback Lamar Jackson evolve as a passer is to keep the pocket relatively clean, which starts at the center position.
The Ravens can decide to go with a player like Bradley Bozeman, who has more of a mean streak and is listed as the only pure center on the Ravens roster. Bozeman, who stands at a sturdy 6’5” is more of a stereotypical center, with Skura being on the shorter side at 6’3”. Skura was the 23rd ranked center in the NFL last season, the Ravens desperately need to find an upgrade if they hope to win the AFC North again.
GUARD: I’m far less concerned about the guards, seeing as Marshal Yanda is entering this season the healthiest he’s been in years. The left guard position is still a toss-up with James Hurst and Alex Lewis not doing much to separate themselves from the competition. Both saw significant action as starters last season, but both were below average in performance according to Pro Football Focus. The Ravens took possible replacement Ben Powers out of Oklahoma in the fourth round of the latest draft.
Powers is a three year starter and a former first team All-Big 12 selection at Oklahoma, playing with both Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray. In watching his tape, he is still slightly unrefined, but he shows the versatility to switch easily between finesse and power. He is the type of guard that usually thrives in a Greg Roman offense.
TACKLE: The strongest part of the offensive line last season. Returning starters Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr. will build off of the 2018 campaign to become the bookend duo that Baltimore as sorely lacked since the 2012 playoff duo of Michael Oher and Bryant McKinnie.
Stanley and Brown were ranked above average in pass protection last season and were actively improving in run blocking. The only concern I have moving forward is a question of Stanley’s durability, as he was downed a few times last season. If he can string together a healthy season, the line will be all the better for it.
It’s no secret, that for a majority of last season Lamar Jackson made the offensive line better. The line has to improve this season and rally behind Jackson, the same line that allowed him to be sacked seven times in January against the Chargers. I expect this offensive line to be reminiscent of the 2012 49ers Super Bowl unit (it allowed 48 sacks) of which, Roman was the architect. Jackson could certainly take advantage of the clean pocket he would have and has a chance to prove his doubters wrong.
The line will be able to open up massive gaps for the talented committee of running backs that will roll into training camp in a week. Mark Ingram, arrives by way of New Orleans, Gus Edwards, last year’s YPC leader, and rookie Justice Hill will all have a role to play this season. John Harbaugh has always pushed for a run game, but now he has the tools to make it a priority. Last season they led the league in total rushing, and they have since acquired more talent.
Next up, wide receivers.