Protecting the Prized Asset Photo Credit: Baltimore Ravens

Street Talk Protecting the Prized Asset

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The Ravens overhauled their offensive line to better protect Lamar Jackson in the passing game.

As a result, the team could boast one of the biggest and more physical lines in the NFL next season. 

The starting lineup could be: 

Both Zeitler and Villanueva were signed as free agents and are expected to make an immediate impact. The team selected Cleveland in the third round of this year’s NFL draft. Bozeman will make the natural transition from left guard to center, a position he played at Alabama. Stanley is expected to recover from his season-ending ankle injury. 

The Ravens traded Orlando Brown Jr. to Kansas City this offseason. 

Despite the obvious improvements, Seth Walder, of ESPN, predicts the Ravens will still have some struggles in pass protection and ranked them 14th in his projection of the NFL’s best and worst pass-projecting offensive lines. The Cleveland Browns are ranked No. 1 but had the league’s 24th-best passing attack last season.  

“It’s shocking to see Baltimore so low on this list,” Walder wrote. “And make no mistake, this has nothing to do with Stanley, who not only finished fourth in [pass block win rate] in 2019 but was leading the category through Week 8 when he was injured last season. It’s the three newcomers who drag down this unit. Particularly Villanueva, who looks like a significant downgrade from Orlando Brown Jr. in pass protection (though Villanueva did have a slightly higher run block win rate than Brown last season).”

[Related Article: The Culprit in the Ravens Passing Game]

The Ravens had the league’s 32nd-ranked passing attack last season. Following the 2020 season, general manager Eric DeCosta knew the team needed to protect Jackson better in order to improve. 

“I think one of the things we have to do is get better upfront with pass protection,” DeCosta said. “Losing Ronnie Stanley was definitely a tough deal for the offensive line to handle. Orlando did a great job, and I think the offensive line, in general, really battled versus some adversity this year.

“But pass protection is going to be a factor. I think that having an OTA this year if we can, more practice time would be a big thing. We’ve got some young receivers that would benefit from more practice time, and OTAs, and an offseason. We’ll look at the personnel as well. There are a lot of different ways that we can do that.” 

The team already has the league’s top-ranked running attack. Now, the goal is to have the passing game play at an equally effective level. And that means, protect Lamar.

The Ravens players are confident that the offensive line will be better this season.

“The offensive line for the Ravens, the way that they’re coached, and the attitude that they have has been something that has been respected in the AFC North ever since I’ve been playing in the NFL,” Villanueva said. “I know that [former Steelers offensive line and current Broncos offensive line] Coach [Mike] Munchak had a lot of admiration for the way that they ran zone schemes. So, if anything, I feel a bigger responsibility to make sure that what you’re saying, this new revamped offensive line, is something that can come to fruition.”

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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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