After what was possibly the worst regular season performance of a Ravens Offensive Line in the Lamar Jackson era in the Monday Night opener in Vegas, the big boys showed up on Sunday night and absolutely dominated the Kansas City Chiefs’ front seven.
According to RSR’s old friend Cole Jackson, the only allowed one pressure all night:
I hate to update my pressures allowed…but the #Ravens OL did allow a pressure, per my charting.
Ben Cleveland allowed a hurry on a completion to Sammy Watkins.
OL still balled out!#RavensFlock
— Cole Jackson (@ColeJacksonFB) September 22, 2021
This is a massive improvement from Week 1, when Lamar was pressured on 54.5% of his dropbacks, per Next Gen Stats. We were all questioning just what we were in for this season after losing to Vegas, and Jackson’s long term health was a chief concern.
Minus their best player, Ronnie Stanley, the shorthanded allowed just a single sack (which came on a blitz) against a Chiefs D that had four the last time these teams played.
The O-Line’s emergence can mean a few things for the rest of this season and beyond…
No Need To Rush Stanley
As of the writing of this article, Stanley has not been placed on IR and we still don’t know what exactly his condition is, though I think it’s a safe bet to say that he’s not playing against Detroit. According to The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec, Stanley did not practice today.
With Stanley injured, Alejandro Villanueva moved to left tackle after a disastrous performance in Week 1 at right tackle. Villanueva looked back at home at the position he held in Pittsburgh for the last six seasons. Chris Jones and Frank Clark combined for three tackles, one of them for a loss. It is just one game, but Villanueva and Patrick Mekari, who was inserted at right tackle to replace Villanueva, showed that they can protect the Ravens backfield from top-tier talent such as Clark and Jones.
With how cryptic John Harbaugh is being, we should assume we won’t see Stanley back on the field for some time. If Mekari and Villanueva can keep this up, why rush him? Stanley clearly wasn’t 100% against the Raiders, so if his ankle needs time, Mekari and AV are serviceable for now. T.J. Watt and Myles Garrett are on the horizon twice each, but not until after the Ravens’ bye. That gives Stanley plenty of time to get healthy.
The Bozeman Move Worked
The Ravens finished the 2020 season with a clear issue at Center, and the solution that Harbaugh and Eric DeCosta came up with was to move offensive guard Bradley Bozeman to the spot, which he hadn’t played since his days at Alabama.
He’s made them look like geniuses so far, as Bozeman is currently the third highest graded center by PFF.
Bozeman has been the centerpiece (see what I did there?) of an interior o-line that has led the way for a Ravens rushing attack that is averaging nearly six yards per carry. Reminder: JK Dobbins and Gus Edwards never played a snap.
He also has an impeccable sense of style:
Ravens o-lineman Bradley Bozeman showed up to the game in a Bobby Boucher jersey yesterday.
Legend 👏 😂 pic.twitter.com/TrAvJ65Zyx
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) September 20, 2021
Bozeman’s snaps have been perfect. I know that seems like a weird thing to point out, but after last year, I feel the need to bring it up.
Why does this matter?
In every single playoff loss of the Lamar Jackson era, the offensive line has gotten dominated. Until Sunday night, the Chiefs seemed to have their number as well.
One of these bogeymen has been dealt with.
They aren’t even fully healthy, and we’ve seen them do good things. Kevin Zeitler has proven to be yet another great acquisition by EDC. He’s been a force in the Ravens’ running game
.@LataviusM bulldozes his way in for the TOUCHDOWN!
Tune in on NBC! pic.twitter.com/QqUA6WrIZa
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) September 20, 2021
The Chiefs tried to stack the box, and they couldn’t stop the run or the pass. That is a very big deal. The “blueprint” on stopping the Ravens offense has been just that: to stack the box and play the run. If teams can’t do that anymore, just how do you stop this offense, which still isn’t even close to full strength?
The Long Term
Bozeman is a free agent after this year, so we’ll see what happens with him, though the Ravens might be looking for another long-term answer at center very soon. At guard, the Ravens seem to like their current guys in Zeitler and Ben Powers, though Ben Cleveland will be in one of those starting spots soon. Tackle is a bit more interesting. Despite what our forums might be saying, no, Ronnie Stanley isn’t moving to RT. As much as I love the guy, Patrick Mekari isn’t a long-term answer at right tackle, so look for the Ravens to take a tackle high in the 2022 draft. After Stanley returns, look for Villanueva to fill the swing tackle role.
That’s all I have for now. All in all, I’m happy with what I’ve seen from these guys so far this year.