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Dominating the Trenches Shawn Hubbard/Baltimore Ravens

Street Talk Dominating the Trenches

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The errant snaps to quarterback Lamar Jackson were a major source of frustration for the Ravens last season.

Presnap penalties on the offensive line were also infuriating. 

General manager Eric DeCosta conceded the Ravens need to better production from the offensive line.

As some fans are clamoring for the team to sign a big-time wide receiver or edge rusher in free agency, DeCosta might make his biggest splash with an interior offensive lineman.

“We believe in an offensive line,” DeCosta said. “We believe in being a strong offensive line. We want to have the best offensive line we can.”

Baltimore had the league’s No. 1 running attack for a second consecutive year. The offensive line did a solid job creating holes and pulling to support the running backs.

The pass blocking was much more challenged. Quarterback Lamar Jackson absorbed 29 sacks in the regular season and was taken down eight more times in two playoff games. An errant snap in the divisional playoff game flew over Jackson’s head and he was knocked out of the game when he suffered a concussion scrambling to recover the ball.

Those types of incidents cannot happen if the Ravens want to make a Super Bowl run. They have to do much better protecting Jackson, who is the team’s most dangerous player.

The offseason is already complicated by the Orlando Brown Jr. situation. He successfully made the switch from right to left tackle when Ronnie Stanley went down with a season-ending ankle injury. 

However, the Ravens have already invested in Stanley and they expect him to return to his position at left tackle for the 2021 season.

Brown wants to stay on the left side of the line and made headlines when he initially posted a message on Twitter that said, “I’m a LEFT tackle.” The Ravens have reportedly given Brown permission to seek a trade, but DeCosta would have to net a huge return to send him to another franchise.

If DeCosta is overwhelmed by an offer, the Ravens still have Tyre Phillips, who started eight games at right tackle as a rookie last season and was mostly effective. The team is hopeful he can make a bigger impact in 2021 with a full offseason under his belt.

However, DeCosta will also keep his eyes on the free-agent market for a center and another versatile player able to compete at tackle and guard.

There are numerous solid players available this offseason, most notably guard Brandon Scherff (Washington), tackles Trent Williams (San Francisco), guard Joe Thuney (New England), and center Corey Linsley (Green Bay). The upcoming draft also is full of potential playmakers on the offensive line. 

“We certainly have to do a better job of getting the ball back to the quarterback,” DeCosta said. “We think we have some options at the position, and we’ve got some good, young players. What I like about the offensive line is we have a lot of really good, nice, young players. We’re not sure who those guys are going to be [and if] they are going to emerge and be the starters for us, but we’ve got good depth – what I would call shallow depth.

“We’ll also have a chance, I think, with the Draft and free agency to augment those positions as well.”

One of the biggest obstacles in free agency will be a lower salary cap this season because of the impact of COVID-19. DeCosta will have to navigate that challenge, while upgrading the roster to make a deeper playoff run. 

On the bright side, the Ravens have several young playmakers on the current roster that have an upside. They were hamstrung by the lack of OTAs last year. 

“We have some guys that can play,” DeCosta said. “A lot of guys have played for us – a lot of young players are emerging talents.”

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About Todd Karpovich

Todd Karpovich has been a contributor for ESPN, the Associated Press, SportsXchange, the Baltimore Sun, among other media outlets nationwide. He is the co-author of “If These Walls Could Talk: Stories from the Baltimore Ravens Sideline, Locker Room, and Press Box,” “Skipper Supreme: Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles,” and the author of “Manchester United (Europe's Best Soccer Clubs).” Karpovich lives in Towson with his wife, Jill, daughters, Wyeth and Marta, and a pair of dogs, Sarah and Rory. More from Todd Karpovich
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